Metals Technology: Innovating the future of airpower

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A 5-axis computer numerical control machine mills a piece of metal for an F-35A Lightning II, Feb. 6, 2019 at Luke Air Force Base, Ariz. Metals technology uses this equipment to execute extremely precise work, down to 0.0005 centimeter tolerances.

From aircraft parts to specialized tools, the Airmen at the 56th Equipment Maintenance Squadron at Luke Air Force Base, Ariz., aircraft metals technology flight manufacture and fix any asset that comes their way.

Using disciplined and innovative maintenance approaches, the Airmen support Luke Air Force Base’s 5th generation and legacy aircraft.

 “We coordinate with engineers to obtain blueprints for parts and are responsible for accurately machining or welding a new component from scratch,” said Tech Sgt. Robert Burns, aircraft metals technology, non-commissioned officer in charge.  “We also verify and replace worn aircraft parts in critical areas, like the landing gear components.”

As a team, they provide machining and welding operations for aircraft and support equipment across the base. On average, they complete 15-20 aircraft and 20-30 support equipment jobs per month.

“Our job varies from day to day,” Burns said. “One day we could measure landing gear components on an F-16 Fighting Falcon and machine and install new bushings, and the next day weld cracked aerospace ground equipment. Our job allows us the unique opportunity to always have a different challenge from day to day.”

Tech Sgt. Robert Burns, 56th Equipment Maintenance Squadron aircraft metals technology non-commissioned officer in charge, inputs a command into a 5-axis computer numerical control machine, Feb. 6, 2019 at Luke Air Force Base, Ariz. Metals technology provides machining and welding operations for aircraft and support equipment across the base.

They also work closely with local field service engineers and Lockheed Martin to obtain the proper authorizations to repair and manufacture parts for the F-35A Lightning II.

“We obtained authorization from Lockheed Martin, with assistance from our field service engineers, to manufacture the first (F-35 Lightning II) aircraft part,” Burns said. “We were able to obtain the drawings and files required and manufactured the part in two days. We saved 6 months of downtime by locally producing the part.”

By engineering at the local level rather than waiting on different repair avenues, metals technologists reduce costs, time and resources, for Luke and the Air Force.

 “Having metals technology experience and capabilities at the field level gives the Air Force the ability to fabricate and repair non-procurable and backlogged supply parts,” said Master Sgt. Bradford Doyon, aircraft metals technology section chief. “In turn, this gets the aircraft back to mission capable status faster to ultimately train not only tomorrow’s fighter pilots, but also maintainers in a more efficient manner.”
 

Airman 1st Class Taylor Frost, 56th Equipment Maintenance Squadron aircraft metals technology apprentice, shaves down an ammunition shell, Feb. 6, 2019 at Luke Air Force Base, Ariz. Airmen assigned to the 56th EMS metals technology shop provide disciplined and innovative maintenance approaches to support the 5th generation and legacy aircraft housed at Luke AFB.

 

Senior Airman Brendon Tinko, a member of 56th Equipment Maintenance Squadron aircraft metals technology, practices gas metal arc welding, Feb. 6, 2019 at Luke Air Force Base, Ariz. Aircraft metals technology specialists are responsible for machining parts and welding parts to keep the wing’s aircraft flying.