325th Maintenance Squadron Fabrication Save Lives
Staff Sgt. Magen M. Reeves
325th Fighter Wing Public Affairs
The 325th Maintenance Squadron employs a multi-faceted approach to executing the mission of aircraft maintenance by bringing back shops to work together as a cohesive team.
This is accomplished by the fabrication flight; an overarching effort encompassing nondestructive inspections (NDI), production, aerospace ground equipment (AGE) and low observable (LO) back shops. The NDI and production shops work together as a team to identify issues and coordinate course of action efforts to maintain aircraft survivability by aligning with AGE and LO to meet the needs of the aircraft.
"NDI [is] here to advise other shops…on what is the problem," said Staff Sgt. Brandon Tate, 325th MXS NDI noncommissioned officer in charge. "We’ll come out, inspect it and we map out the area so they know what to fix and how to go about trying to fix it. Whether equipment is good enough to [use, needs repaired or needs to be completely replaced,] is where they make their decision."
The production shop compiles the information gathered and determines the best way forward in terms of logistics and maintenance tasks.
"For the production flight, we manage all of the maintenance logistics that goes on within the maintenance squadron between [the other shops] and ensure all the production…is done efficiently, timely, correctly and safely," said Master Sgt. Trevor Taylor, 325th MXS production superintendent. "We manage the majority of the supply. We also ensure the equipment all the guys need on the flight line is available to them and we schedule everything out."
The NDI shop advises on issues using different inspection techniques and equipment, including ultrasonic frequencies and fluorescent dye magnetization, to best guide maintenance for hard to reach or difficult to discern situations.
"Say you have a crack [in an asset]…you can’t see it with your naked eye but you know [something is wrong]," said Tate. "We’ll put green fluorescent dye over top of it…and as we apply, it will seep into the crack. It will enhance by drawing that dye back out so we can visually see it…when we go over it with a black (ultraviolet) light that will show [where the crack is located.]"
Airmen with NDI do not physically fix any items that do not meet the standard of operability; they diagnose and make recommendations.
"The mindset is: inspect the part and let them know the results," said Tate. "You tend to learn what best helps the other shops [even though] we’re not qualified to fix the [issue.] We [are able to assist with] support equipment as well."
Support equipment can including anything from aircraft launch and recovery assets to physical parts of the aircraft, such as panels or armament. The NDI shop also has the capability to test oil and fuels from aircraft.
"Every time the jets run they collect an oil sample…and we’ll run it to make sure there’s no unknown particles in the oil, or metals," said Tate. "Metals [can] flake into the oil, so we’ll take that oil, burn it, and on our screen it will should us all the metals that are in the oil. We can give that to the crew chief…so they [can check] this before something catastrophic happens."
The primary focus here at Tyndall is the F-22 Raptor fleet, currently assigned to Eglin Air Force Base, Florida, but fabrication efforts also support QF-16 Full Scale Aerial Target and F-1 Mirage aircraft that operate on Tyndall’s flight line, according to Taylor.
"We coordinate everything that needs to be done in order to perform the mission, for this case, that’s getting the jets ready," said Taylor. "We have to coordinate with AGE for the equipment, with armament as well for any weapons systems on the aircraft that need to be done and as far as LO, we coordinate with them to ensure that all the LO maintenance is finished on the aircraft…and get it flyable, do all the inspections required, launch it out and get it back to the fighter generation squadron at Eglin. Everybody works together as a team."
Due to the unique partnership Tyndall and Eglin share during Tyndall’s rebuild, assets, functions and equipment have been reallocated between the two installations to enable F-22 Raptor pilots to accomplish their training.
"Here at Tyndall, jets need to fly; we’ve got to train these pilots and we can’t do that with [broken or unsafe] jets," said Tate. "We stop a lot of [potentially] catastrophic failures. Because we’re the ones inspecting the things that you can’t see with your naked eye…pilots’ lives…and the worth of aircraft is in our hands. We do [our job to] the best of our ability and we’re confident in our work."
U.S. Air Force Staff Sgt. Alvinjason Aranda, 325th Maintenance Squadron nondestructive inspection craftsman, checks a piece of a firearm at Tyndall Air Force Base, Florida, June 14, 2022. The NDI flight utilizes special tools and methods to detect faults in the physical integrity of assets and equipment to determine what can be fixed and what needs to be disposed of and replaced. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Magen M. Reeves)