Aero repair keeps aircraft flying high

Airman 1st D’Andre Davis, 92nd Maintenance Squadron aerospace repair apprentice, assists in break down of a tire with Airman 1st Class Cody Mathews, 92nd MXS aerospace repair journeyman, at Fairchild Air Force Base July 22, 2016. The aerospace repair shop is tasked with wheel and tire assembly for all KC-135 Stratotanker operations within Pacific Air Force as well as KC-135 operations at Fairchild. (U.S. Air Force photo/Airman 1st Class Mackenzie Richardson)

Airman 1st D’Andre Davis, 92nd Maintenance Squadron aerospace repair apprentice, assists in break down of a tire with Airman 1st Class Cody Mathews, 92nd MXS aerospace repair journeyman, at Fairchild Air Force Base July 22, 2016. The aerospace repair shop is tasked with wheel and tire assembly for all KC-135 Stratotanker operations within Pacific Air Force as well as KC-135 operations at Fairchild. (U.S. Air Force photo/Airman 1st Class Mackenzie Richardson)

Airman 1st D’Andre Davis, 92nd Maintenance Squadron aerospace repair apprentice, finishes a tire break down at Fairchild Air Force Base July 22, 2016. The aerospace repair shop disassembles all parts of the tire to ensure there is no damage and each piece is cleaned. (U.S. Air Force photo/Airman 1st Class Mackenzie Richardson)

Airman 1st D’Andre Davis, 92nd Maintenance Squadron aerospace repair apprentice, finishes a tire break down at Fairchild Air Force Base July 22, 2016. The aerospace repair shop disassembles all parts of the tire to ensure there is no damage and each piece is cleaned. (U.S. Air Force photo/Airman 1st Class Mackenzie Richardson)

Airman 1st Class Cody Mathews, 92nd Maintenance Squadron aerospace repair journeyman, completes a tire build at Fairchild Air Force Base July 22, 2016. The aerospace repair shop specializes in tasks such as aircraft flight controls, landing gear components, wheel and tire repair and Crash, Damaged/Disabled Aircraft Recovery. (U.S. Air Force photo/Airman 1st Class Mackenzie Richardson)

Airman 1st Class Cody Mathews, 92nd Maintenance Squadron aerospace repair journeyman, completes a tire build at Fairchild Air Force Base July 22, 2016. The aerospace repair shop specializes in tasks such as aircraft flight controls, landing gear components, wheel and tire repair and Crash, Damaged/Disabled Aircraft Recovery. (U.S. Air Force photo/Airman 1st Class Mackenzie Richardson)

FAIRCHILD AIR FORCE BASE, Wash. -- Fairchild Air Force Base is home to nearly 35 KC-135 Stratotankers, most of which are approaching their 60th birthdays. With little rest for the lynch pin of global reach air refueling in sight, these KC-135s rely on a highly-trained, responsible group of maintainers to keep them in the air.

The 92nd Maintenance Squadron aerospace repair shop is manned by approximately 34 crew chiefs qualified in specialty tasks such as aircraft flight controls, landing gear components and wheel and tire repair.

“Aerospace repair is extremely hands on and can become extremely technical,” said Airman 1st Class Cody Mathews, 92nd MXS aerospace repair journeyman. “Without our maintenance specialty, many of these aircraft wouldn’t be able to fly.”

During the three month crew chief technical school, Airmen are trained in general aircraft maintenance and then move on to further training for their maintenance specialty. Due to the complexity of aerospace repair, the shop team is comprised mainly of NCOs, as more hands on experience is required for the difficult and challenging tasks.

“Our main job is to perform maintenance on aircraft flight controls and landing gear systems,” said Master Sgt. Dustin Brockman, 92nd MXS aerospace repair section chief. “The KC-135 is much older than most aircraft; it still utilizes a cable system. Each flight control and landing gear component cable must be rigged properly to ensure all aircraft assigned to Fairchild can complete their mission successfully.”

A majority of the aerospace repair’s workload is conducted in conjunction with the periodic inspection team. The inspection is completed every 1800 flight hours or 24 months. During this time, each flight control and landing gear component is inspected, cleaned and tested to make sure no defects are present and everything is in proper working condition, Brockman said.

As well as working alongside numerous maintenance shops at Fairchild, the aerospace repair shop is also tasked with wheel and tire assembly for all KC-135 operations within Pacific Air Force and KC-135 operations at Fairchild. PACAF operations cover numerous bases to include Kadena Air Base, Japan, all the way to Eilson AFB, Alaska. The shop’s mission is to break down, clean, inspect and buildup tires to be sent to multiple bases around the globe to ensure KC-135s can continue their mission.

The Crash, Damaged/Disabled Aircraft Recovery program is one of the final responsibilities of the highly trained aerospace repair shop.

“This wing program is designed to have the capability to recover crashed aircraft,” Brockman said. “Each aerospace repair member attends additional training every year to prepare if the worst case scenario were to occur.”

The aerospace repair shop’s current CDDAR program supports not only Fairchild, but any military aircraft incidents that occur within eastern Washington and several parts of Idaho.

“There is always something new to try and repair,” concluded Mathews. “We are able to come together as a shop, pull together our technical orders and experience, use ‘out of the box’ thinking to make some of the most difficult repairs. I definitely enjoy my job.”