35 MXS fabrication flight repair makes U.S. Air Force history

  • Published
  • By Airman 1st Class Collette Brooks
  • 35th Fighter Wing Public Affairs
Three Airmen with the 35th Maintenance Squadron fabrication flight performed a depot-level repair on an F-16 Fighting Falcon aircraft at Misawa Air Base, Japan, in August this year.

Maintainers or contractors typically conduct depot-level repairs at Hill Air Force Base, Utah, and are certified to tend to severely damage aircraft which requires using specialized resources.

However, when the team discovered corrosion on the lower skin of the aircraft, making it inoperable until repair, the F-16 System Program Office at Hill Air Force Base approved Misawa Airmen to rectify the issue.

The restoration not only required outside-the-box thinking, but high levels of maintenance competency and skill.

“Being able to conduct this repair in-house aided mission continuation,” said Tech. Sgt. Jordon Jones, a 35th MXS aircraft maintenance structural craftsman.

While Jones explained conducting the repair locally contributed to time saved, he also described repairs made.

“In one month’s time, we aided in bringing this aircraft back to life,” said Jones. “Once we discovered the pinhole-sized corrosion, we removed seven major construction components, three skins, two ribs and cut out a total longeron, which maintains the structural rigidity of the airframe. In more simple terms, we cut the aircraft in half and put it back together.”

While making these repairs, the team stayed vigilant for quality assurance and accuracy.

“My team remained cautious during the process because this was the first time in U.S. Air Force history a repair like this had been conducted at the field level,” explained Jones. “Since people’s lives depend on the functionality of our aircraft, being precise while maintaining is vital.”

While precision is crucial to mission success, having a reliable partner aids in overcoming challenges.

“I am the second head involved in the repair,” said Staff Sgt. Charles White, a 35th MXS aircraft structural maintenance craftsman. “With this unique task being out of the norm, we basically went in blind, but staying strategic and five steps ahead kept us focused and on track.”

While being attentive was at the forefront of the White’s mind, he also felt honored to be selected to maintain the aircraft.

“Being hand-picked to tend to this aircraft is a great feeling,” said White. “I know one wrong move could adversely affect the aircraft, combating mission success. My team and I have pride in what we do, which is demonstrated in our work quality. It’s important to have pride and connection when maintaining an aircraft because it’s a reflection of you.”

“I am beyond proud of our fabrication personnel and 13th Aircraft Maintenance Airmen,” added Capt. Charles Glover, the 35th MXS operations officer. “These Airmen brought an aircraft back into the fight that would otherwise be awaiting repair for an indeterminate timeline. Not only was the repair accomplished under an estimated timeline, but I have been in multiple units and have yet to see approval for such a critical complex repair.”