How the Air Force's metals techs keep aircraft flying

Air Force maintenance airman

  • The Air Force's aircraft metals technology technicians keep the service's aircraft flying by grinding, welding, fabricating or repairing parts.
  • At RAF Mildenhall, Air Force metals techs are there to make sure other airmen have the tools and parts they need to get the job done.
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The 100th Maintenance Squadron's aircraft metals technology technicians aim to achieve the highest levels of precision when grinding, welding, fabricating or repairing parts for Team Mildenhall aircraft.

For the airmen of the aircraft metals technology section, it's their job to ensure that Team Mildenhall has the tools and parts needed to accomplish the mission.Advertisement

"Metals technology repairs, modifies and manufactures aircraft and ground equipment parts or anything needed to accomplish the mission," said Senior Airman Samuel Muncrief, 100th MXS aircraft metals technician journeyman.

"We also fabricate tools for other shops; there are parts on our aircraft that they no longer make tools for, so we make the new part and the tool to remove the old one."

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When it comes to welding, grinding or fabricating, the airmen of metals technology have a reputation for excellence, and it's well deserved.

When it comes to welding, grinding or fabricating, the airmen of metals technology have a reputation for excellence, and it's well deserved.

"Every day we are dealing with tight tolerances, or how much we can be over or under on the dimensions of a part," said Staff Sgt. Brandon Telles, 100th MXS aircraft metals technician craftsman. "Usually, we are dealing with tolerances the size of a strand of hair: I enjoy the challenge, it forces you to pay close attention to your work."

In a profession with such exacting standards, it's important to continue to learn and improve.

In a profession with such exacting standards, it's important to continue to learn and improve.

"We are constantly learning, and we start by studying the basic concepts in training, and when we arrive at our shop, we begin to master our craft," Telles explained. "We have 16-year veterans who still learn something new every day."

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In addition to their primary job, the aircraft metals shop helps save Team Mildenhall thousands of dollars.

In addition to their primary job, the aircraft metals shop helps save Team Mildenhall thousands of dollars.

"Today we worked on a part which could be outsourced to the civilian sector for $16,000," Telles said. "We've already completed eight of those parts and we will complete two more; it adds up to a considerable sum."

Innovation and creative solutions are also key for aircraft metals technicians, sometimes leading them to gather insight outside of their shop.

Innovation and creative solutions are also key for aircraft metals technicians, sometimes leading them to gather insight outside of their shop.

"We speak with engineers and gather information from blue prints to get exact dimensions and determine what a part needs to be made of," Telles said. "Occasionally, the blueprints don't match the aircraft perfectly and we have to go out to the aircraft and measure; it's a lot of precision work."

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The metals technology shop has a considerable impact on the mission, but for them its just business as usual.

The metals technology shop has a considerable impact on the mission, but for them its just business as usual.

"In a way we are the last line of defense. When a crew chief finds something that needs to be fixed it comes to us," Telles said. "At that point, we have to fix it, weld it or replace it and if we don't get it done the plane doesn't fly."