The diameter of a human eyelash is .05 millimeters. Aircraft metals technology technicians work with metals to build and repair aircraft components and tools, using powerful machines and working within measurements smaller than the diameter of the human eyelash.
“In aircraft metals technology, we have our hands in pretty much everything,” said Tech. Sgt. Matthew Lucas, 56th Equipment Maintenance Squadron Fabrication Flight aircraft metals technology NCO in-charge. “If something is broken, requiring a measurement or a repair, metals technology is usually called. We have a saying here, ‘It’s not broke until we say it is.’”
Aircraft metal technicians fabricate, repair and make aircraft parts from scratch. They perform measurement inspections, remove stuck and broken hardware, as well as weld engine components and aerospace ground equipment.
“We do a lot of things here,” Lucas said. “We support not only the aircraft maintenance units, but other departments across the base, including the fire department and civil engineering. We are not just limited to aircraft work.”
On an average day, technicians will have anywhere from 18 to 19 jobs come into the shop. Sometimes the jobs are quick fixes. Other times they require extensive repairs, which require them to consult with engineers at Hill Air Force Base, Utah, to acquire the blueprints and documentation needed to perform the job.
An ongoing project for aircraft metal technicians at Luke AFB is maintaining F-16 Fighting Falcon landing gear.
“We take out the landing gear every 72 months to change and inspect all the components,” Lucas said. “We perform measurement checks on all of the meeting points on the landing gear and replace the bushings.”
In-house repairs save the Air Force close to $6 million a year on landing gear alone, Lucas said.
Lucas receives landing gear every two weeks and repairs up to 30 a year. One landing gear takes two to three days to complete.
Technicians use milling machines, lathe machines, drill presses and hand tools to perform their job. With the help of computer aided design equipment, Airmen transfer designs into a machine that cuts the metal.
All repairs are governed by technical orders, however if there is a repair that is not governed in technical orders or someone needs a special tool, technicians create this from scratch.
“We are the magicians who make whatever you need when something goes wrong and it seems like nothing can be done,” said Staff Sgt. Bryan Ehnis, 56th EMS Fabrication Flight aircraft metals technology craftsman. “If there is a job that is difficult to reach with a wrench, we will take that wrench and bend it, to give better access to it.”
Aircraft medals technology maintains the serviceability of AGE equipment and support stands. Airmen weld cracks, support braces and fabricate gates on base.
The variety of work never makes for a dull day.
“I love everything about my job,” Ehnis said. “I have the best job in the Air Force. I get to come in every day, and it is never the same thing.”