49th EMS re-creates essential aircraft part

  • Published
  • By Senior Airman Quion Lowe
  • 49th Wing Public Affairs

“Something we often say is ‘time is money,” said Tech. Sgt. Wesley Hayes, 49th Equipment Maintenance Squadron metals technology section chief.

As part of the 49th EMS Fabrication Flight, Hayes is on a team responsible for part fabrication for maintenance equipment and tools in the 49th Maintenance Group. When faced with the dilemma of needing to fix an object that conventionally would take weeks, the Fabrication Flight innovated a way to re-create it, allowing the aircraft to return to operational status quicker and aid in the training of combat ready aircrew.

This shop routinely handles inspections and minor adjustments of broken parts, but it is a rare opportunity where a part is so broken it needs to be entirely replaced and could be built from scratch.

“One of the aircraft maintenance units was trying to replace the rudder support bearing because the one they had wasn’t fitting on the aircraft,” said Master Sgt. Andrew Clark, 49th EMS Fabrication Flight chief.

Upon examination, the fabrication team determined the part could not be fixed and would have to be either outsourced or re-created in-house. Since outsourcing the part or re-creating it by hand could each take weeks, the team decided to make it using a Computer Numerical Control machine to cut the time down to a few days.

“This is the most in-depth project that I've seen since I've been here,” said Hayes. “The F-16 is getting older, so parts are getting harder to come by. That's where we can fill the gap.”

Projects like this not only significantly cut down the repair time of F-16s, but they provide valuable experience to all team members.

“This is an experience builder for our newer Airmen,” said Clark. “As our Airmen take on jobs that are a little more outside the norm it’s better for when they do out-process to other locations or deploy downrange. It’s great to get them familiar with using the machine and building more complex parts.”

Clark also added that this opportunity showed what the fabrication team is capable of as far as repairing aircraft. The 49th EMS is accelerating change to ensure the 49th Wing does not lose valuable flying training time for F-16 Basic Course students. This innovation showcases their readiness and dedication to the mission.