FAIRCHILD AIR FORCE BASE, Wash. --
The high-pitched sound of a drill bit on metal is drowned out by a crackled voice squawking from a walkie-talkie, which is clipped to the side of a grease stained Airman Battle Uniform. The squawking voice prompts immediate response from a team of dedicated Airmen who quickly drop everything they are working on and rush to an aircraft that needs to be repaired on the flight line prior to takeoff.
Team Fairchild’s hydraulics shop Airmen have honed their craft, allowing them to safely and rapidly ensure that aircraft are in safe flying condition and prepared for takeoff on-time. Should something require repair prior to takeoff, these Airmen can respond and have the aircraft prepared to fly again within hours.
Some hydraulics Airmen are tasked with performing spot repairs to aircraft on the flight line prior to takeoff, requiring a higher work tempo compared to their shop counterparts, due to the environment and repair demand.
“Working on the flight line is pretty dynamic; you have launches going off, and emergencies you need to respond to,” said Staff Sgt. Daniel Holliday, 92nd Maintenance Squadron aircraft hydraulic technician. “When an emergency comes up, you rush to it and when you’re finished you go back to the other job you were working on.”
The hydraulics shop is also heavily involved with conducting timely isochronal inspections on the base’s KC-135 Stratotankers every 24 months. Airmen replace components on the boom during these inspections to ensure its functionality meets inspection requirements. They also change all of the filters on the aircraft’s fuel system, said Senior Airman Jesse Weaver, 92nd Maintenance Squadron aircraft hydraulic technician.
Instead of replacing the broken parts on aircraft, the hydro shop saves the Air Force money by repairing and substituting the part for a new one.
“Flight line Airmen will take bad parts off of the aircraft and then bring them to us,” Holliday said. “We will then take them apart, inspect them, look for defects and then repair the defects, or we’ll send them to other shops to repair it and then we will reseal it and test it.”
Hydraulics is a small, yet unique career field. Despite their heavy workload and the unknowns of flight line work, it can be a rewarding career field, said Holliday.
“Pretty much everything about our job is pretty unique and special,” Holliday said. “No one else really touches the things that we touch.”
Hydraulics has a wide variety of tasks they complete every day to ensure that aircraft are in safe flying condition. They work as the muscle that holds the aircraft together; without hydro, the Air Force would be spending excessive amounts of money and would be working almost quadruple the amount they should, Weaver said.