301 FW fabrication flight manufactures the mission to keep F-16s combat ready

  • Published
  • By Staff Sgt. Randall Moose
  • 301st Fighter Wing Public Affairs

Much like a car, military aircraft require regular maintenance, including replacing worn out or damaged parts. Airmen from the 24th Fighter Squadron Aircraft Structural Maintenance team monitor aircraft and fabricate the necessary parts themselves.

 “We fabricate, paint, inspect, apply chemicals, and we machine parts,” said Tech. Sgt. Nicholas Panyard, 24 FS ASM section chief. “We do this to prevent or fix damage to the aircraft such as stress fatigue, paint damage, or bird strikes. The paint not only looks cool, it also protects the metal and composite material from exposure and corrosion.”

Preventing damage is preferable and cheaper than fixing damage. The ASM team performs regular inspections to spot potential damage before it becomes an issue. Fabrication flight uses non-destructive testing techniques such as visual inspection, ultrasonic testing, or x-rays to examine the airframe without taking it apart.

“We perform non-destructive inception to verify the structural integrity of the jet,” said Panyard. “Every part is critical for these agile, high-speed jets. Any little nick in the airframe needs to be addressed.”

When an aircraft sustains damage that needs to be repaired, fabrication flight Airmen take apart the airframe to address it. Damage to aircraft is never the same and each repair requires an adaptive approach.

“Every day we come into work, we have a different challenge to overcome,” said Senior Airman Jacob Adams, 24 FS ASM craftsman. “We follow our maintenance guides, but we also have to think outside of the box. Each job is like a puzzle, we put our heads together to make it happen.”

Using a shop that may make any car-mechanic jealous, the fabrication flight team turns blocks of metal into advance aircraft parts. Fabrication flight Airmen must know how to work with a variety of materials such as aluminum, steel, titanium, and composites. When they are not repairing an aircraft AMS airmen train with their equipment to hone their skills.

 “We spend a lot of time training with shop equipment,” said Adams. “Every Airman has to be able to perform various tasks such as riveting, welding, and milling. Attention to detail is critical. An error of one-thousandths of an inch will ruin the part.”

The 301st Fighter Wing fabrication flight works 24 hours a day, 7 days a week to keep 301 FW’s F-16 Fighting Falcons combat ready.

“We are ready to respond to any issues with our F-16s,” said Panyard. “Our shop is always manned. Just as the pilots are always ready to go, so are we.”

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