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Fabrication flight keeps coalition aircraft flying

by Senior Airman Michael Matkin
379th Air Expeditionary Wing Public Affairs

10/13/2009 - SOUTHWEST ASIA (AFNS) -- The 379th Expeditionary Maintenace Squadron's fabrication flight doesn't design new aircraft or build new planes for tomorrow.

But, the flight does make sure Air Force aircraft being used here today stay in the air.

"The 379 EMXS fabrication flight repairs and maintains aircraft parts for all Air Force aircraft assigned to the base, as well as Navy, Royal Australian and British Royal Air Force aircraft," said Master Sgt. Jack Taylor, 379 EMXS fabrication flight aircraft structural maintainer, deployed from Charleston Air Force Base, S.C.

The more than 30-member shop performs maintenance on external sheet metal, internal framework, composites, fiberglass and plastic, as well as tubing and cable assemblies on aircraft. The flight is partitioned into two sections: Aircraft structural maintenance and metal technology.

The aircraft structural maintenance section is responsible for sheet metal and composite repairs and the creation of hydraulic tubing.

"We do the general sheet metal fabrication. If the aircraft or part is broken and needs to be patched or reformed, we repair it," said Senior Airman David Denis, 379 EMXS fabrication flight aircraft structural maintenance journeyman, also deployed from Charleston AFB.

Within the structural maintenance shop is the corrosion control section which takes parts and removes primer, paint and rust by blasting them with a mixture of glass and plastic beads. The parts are then repainted and returned to the flightline.

This section spends a lot of its time performing maintenane on C-130 Hercules wheels.

"When an aircraft wheel is sent to us, we will first remove the old paint and then send it to be inspected for structural integrity. After the wheel is deemed structurally sound it is returned to us, we repaint it and send it back to the flightline," said Senior Airman Joseph Jurek, 379 EMXS fabrication flight aircraft structural maintenance journeyman deployed from McConnell AFB, Kan.

The metals technology section is a combination of a welding and a machine shop. This section manufactures most of the items produced by the shop.

"If an aircraft part cannot be easily acquired, we can take raw metal and produce an exact copy," Sergeant Taylor said.

Besides repairing and reproducing aircraft parts, the flight also works with other sections on base. They have repaired ammo trailers and hoists, air and ground equipment and even made tire racks for the 379th Expeditionary Logistics and Readiness Squadron, Airman Jurek said.

The Fabrication flight also works with sister services here. Recently, members of the structural maintenance section were asked to assist the RAF repair a right main landing gear hydraulic line on a C-130J. Members of the section suggested to the RAF maintainers that instead of replacing the entire line, they could use a special method to splice in a small repair section of hydraulic line. The RAF maintainers, not familiar with the method, sought approval through their chain of command. Once the approval was given, members of the section fabricated the repair line and spliced it in.

By utilizing this method, they introduced RAF maintainers to a new repair technique and saved approximately 96 maintenance man-hours, said Senior Master Sgt. Steven Rawlins, 379 EMXS fabrication flight chief, deployed from McGuire AFB, N.J.

"Because we work with different shops and services, communication between us and other shops is important. We have to make sure we know what they need from us so we can either reproduce or return the needed part to its original structural strength, while maintaining the original contour, aerodynamics and general appearance," Airman Denis said.

Working with the different shops and aircraft here is a new opportunity for many members of the flight.

"Although we are trained to work on all aircraft, we usually don't have that opportunity," Airman Denis said. "At my home station, I only work on the C-17 Globemaster III, but here we work on all the aircraft on base, as well as some small non-aircraft jobs."

Working on unfamiliar aircraft can be a challenge for members of the fabrication flight, since different technical orders are used for each aircraft. Not being familiar with the T.O. can make it hard to find information on a specific repair when needed, Airman Denis said.

However, because of the mechanical diversity of the shop, there is usually someone who knows where to find the information.

"Working on all the different aircraft while also being deployed is an eye opener," Airman Jurek said. "It puts our job in perspective by giving us a broader view of the Air Force and its overall mission."

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