Science and Technology News

Saturday, July 31, 2010

Metals technology Airmen provide precision for unique challenges

by Staff Sgt. Phillip Butterfield
332nd Air Expeditionary Wing Public Affairs

7/29/2010 - JOINT BASE BALAD, Iraq (AFNS) -- When an aircraft comes back from a sortie broken, and the part to repair it doesn't exist in the supply chain, all hope for repair might feel lost. However, in the distance, an Airman wields a glimmering, 35,000 degree Fahrenheit light of hope.

The 332nd Expeditionary Maintenance Squadron's metals technology flight uses a lathe, drill press, torch and imagination to repair, and at times create, parts that are no longer available.

"If it's made of metal, and it's on this base, or you have a schematic of it, we can fix it or make it," said Senior Airman Lloyd Davis, a 332 EMXS metals technology journeyman.

When a flightline maintainer notices a structural issue with an aircraft, metals tech Airmen go to the aircraft and evaluate the problem. If a part needs repairs or replacement, it's brought to their shop where it's fixed or another is made.

Some military equipment is no longer supplied by the manufacturer, nor are there any substitutes. Occasionally, parts are received that don't work correctly with current aircraft modifications and need to be adjusted.

"We also support the Army and Navy when they do not have the capabilities to manufacture a part," said Staff Sgt. Bradley White, a 332nd EMXS metals technology craftsman.

However, making an aircraft part isn't as simple as grinding away at a piece of metal until the desired product is achieved. When working with metal, precision is more important than speed.

"We use schematics or blueprints to ensure correct measurements," Airman Davis said. "We work on parts that have tolerances of up to 1,000th of an inch, and if you are off, you need to start all over again."

With precision work like this, it may be said that enjoyment in your work is a prerequisite.

"I like doing what I do; if I had to choose one job in maintenance this would be it," Airman Davis said. "We get to work on many of-one-of a kind items that require us to be imaginative and creative."

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