445th MXS Fab Flight: a well-oiled machine of team players

  • Published
  • By Stacy Vaughn
  • 445th Airlift Wing Public Affairs
Tucked away in building 4026 one can witness worker bees painting, drilling, measuring and hammering away. They belong to the 445th Maintenance Squadron's fabrication flight.

The 50 reservists assigned to fabrication flight are responsible for aircraft structural maintenance for the wing's C-17 Globemaster III fleet.

"Most people assume we're just a repair facility but we're not. We're also a manufacturer and the three sections that make up the fabrication flight collectively can build anything," said Senior Master Sgt. John Birhanzl, chief, fabrication flight.

The flight consists of three sections: aircraft structural repair, metals technology and non-destructive inspection (NDI). Each shop has its own role but often they are integrated and intertwined with each other for certain projects.

In seeking success on any given task, the fabrication flight relies on agencies such as the Air Force Research Laboratory's Coatings Technology Integration Office, the Air Force Corrosion Prevention and Control Office and many other sources that exist, said Master Sgt. Scott McCoy, quality assurance.

The aircraft structural maintenance section performs aircraft structural repairs, corrosion control and advance composite repairs. They provide inspection, damage evaluation, repair, manufacture, and/or modification of metallic, composite, fiberglass, plastic components, and related hardware associated with the aircraft. This section also designs and constructs special forming jigs, fixtures and dyes to manufacture unprocurable aircraft components.

Structural maintenance is the largest of the three shops and has a role in every part of the plane except avionics.

While the C-5 Galaxy was still a wing asset, the flight manufactured a critical C-5 visor pressurization repair. Structuring components manufactured to original blueprint specifications saved the wing $250,000.

"We're on the cutting edge of technology. We can take a manufacturer's blueprint and build a part out of the specifications. This saves us time and money, and we can get the aircraft back in the air to do its mission," said Master Sgt. Robert Booth, Jr., aircraft structural maintenance craftsman.

The metals technology section manufactures most of the items produced by the flight. They are basically a combination of both a welding shop and machine shop. The reservists in the shop can not only weld, design and fabricate parts but they can heat treat metals parts and aircraft components.

"Metals technology is also involved in special projects for other base agencies. We've helped the Research Labs, NASIC [National Air and Space Intelligence Center], Airman Leadership School, and our recruiters," said Master Sgt. Jason Cox, metals technology craftsman.

Cox said they helped AFRL by building a C-130 ejection module for nearly 1/4 the costs of a commercial build.

"We were able to get it to them at a fraction of the cost it would have run them if they went somewhere else. The magnitude of this project was huge because it was affecting the whole C-130 fleet," Cox said.

The non-destructive inspection section performs non-destructive inspections to maintain the integrity of the aircraft. They examine aircraft parts for structural integrity and utilize an assortment of procedures to include x-ray, ultrasonic, eddy current, magnetic particle, and liquid penetrate of aircraft, engines, and aerospace ground equipment. NDI also conducts aircraft engine oil analysis, sampling the oil to detect contaminations that could lead to a potential engine failure or other mishap. They identify, remove and treat corrosion plus paint the aircraft.

"We try to catch the defects before they cause catastrophic failure in the aircraft," said Master Sgt. Steven Tinnel, NDI inspection journeyman.
All three shops that make up the fabrication flight in the end, come together as a team to get the job done, even if it's one repair job.

"As a flight, we can work together to accomplish one repair job. For example, a crack could be found on the plane and when it happens, we call NDI and they have the equipment and process and evaluate it. We use their skills to determine the issue then structures takes over. MTEC comes into play and builds the repair part and assists in having it installed. When prepped, it goes back to NDI for inspection of cracks/flaws. When NDI blesses it, it goes back to structures," said Master Sgt. Kerry Penner, aircraft structural maintenance craftsman.