Metals Technology: Airmen keep aircraft fit to fly

U.S. Air Force Staff Sgt. Eric Griese, an aircraft metals technology technician assigned to the 6th Maintenance Squadron, prepares to cut a design into a piece of sheet metal at MacDill Air Force Base Fla., Nov. 7, 2017.

U.S. Air Force Staff Sgt. Eric Griese, an aircraft metals technology technician assigned to the 6th Maintenance Squadron, prepares to cut a design into a piece of sheet metal at MacDill Air Force Base Fla., Nov. 7, 2017. As part of the fabrication flight, Griese recently worked on a dented fuel component by creating a patch allowing the aircraft to fly. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Rito Smith)

A water jet begins cutting a design into a piece of sheet metal at MacDill Air Force Base Fla., Nov. 7, 2017.

A water jet begins cutting a design into a piece of sheet metal at MacDill Air Force Base Fla., Nov. 7, 2017. The water jet has the capabilities to cut sheet metal with precision needed for aircraft repairs saving money and time. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Rito Smith)

MACDILL AIR FORCE BASE, Fla. --

“In the maintenance world, the quote for fabrication flight has always been, ‘you break it, we fix it!’ said Tech. Sgt. Matthew Dowden, aircraft metals technology section chief assigned to the 6th Maintenance Squadron.

In the world of metals technology, Airmen work with just about any component that could break on an aircraft or aircrew ground equipment and are able to create customized parts that may not be made any more.

“Basically, if it goes on an aircraft we are involved with it one way or another,Depending on the codes assigned to each part, our shop can either make a part or we will determine if we need to procure it,” said Staff Sgt. Eric Griese, aircraft metals technology technician assigned to the 6th MXS. “Depending on the codes assigned to each part, our shop can either make a part or we will determine if we need to procure it.”

These Airmen work mostly with components that need to be replaced on a regular basis.

“We also get some unusual projects, like we had an aircraft come back that had a fuel component that was dented, so we were had to fabricate a patch and then weld it to the component,” said Griese. “The hardest part of that was to find a way to pressure test the component.

“We worked with the fuels back shop and mimicked the identical setup in our shop and then performed an operational check to ensure it held the correct pounds per square inch.”

Metals technology Airmen consider themselves the middlemen between flight line maintainers and engineers.

“We get involved when there isn’t an easy answer to a problem,” said Griese. “We get called out, do an evaluation, and then we come up with a recommendation and get permission from the engineers to follow through.”

Griese emphasized that communication was vital to the success of their mission because they work with every other back shop in maintenance.

“Communication is the difference between two to three days’ worth of work and a couple of hours,” said Griese. “We have to know exactly what is required of us so we can come up with a plan of action and then pitch it to the engineers.”

Because these Airmen work with so many other shops they can see directly how they impact the overall mission at MacDill.

“Since we work with every other shop in maintenance it’s almost like we are the glue to the back shops, we are the one-stop-shop when it comes to modifying just about anything under the sun,” said Griese. “Sometimes we are the last hope for some of these shops when they are getting ready to buy an expensive component.

“That’s the best feeling, knowing my job impacts so many different parts of the mission,” said Griese. “When we succeed as a small team, the wing’s mission as a whole succeeds.”