Air Force Featured Stories

Combat metals team innovates repair, saves AF thousands

  • Published
  • By Master Sgt. Eric M. Sharman
  • 386th Air Expeditionary Wing Public Affairs
You don’t always have everything you want on a deployment. No sixty inch plasma with video game console in your room, so you bring a laptop to play your games. Your cell phone doesn’t have coverage unless you pay exorbitant roaming fees, so you video chat with your family over Wi-Fi when you can instead. You make it work, however you can.

That is what the men and women of the 386th Expeditionary Maintenance Squadron combat metals shop did recently when a C-130 Hercules tire blew out on landing at a forward operating base, and the body of the tire kicked up and bent the left landing gear door. They took what they had and made it work.

The damage to the door called for a complete part replacement, and shipping was going to take about two weeks, according to Capt. Donovan Ricks, the 386th Expeditionary Maintenance Squadron maintenance operations officer.

“It was just one of those situations where we couldn’t just sit around and wait,” said Ricks. “Every second that one of our aircraft isn’t fully mission-capable represents pallets stacking up, people not getting downrange, and war fighters not getting what they need to accomplish their mission.”

Led by Master Sgt. Daniel Taylor, the 386th EMXS combat metals flight chief, the combat metals Airmen got to work. They began by removing the door and hammering the dents and creases out of the sheet metal as best they could. During disassembly they learned that the damage to the door extended beyond the metal skin to the structural ribs of the door.

“We made a forming block out of plywood that had the same contour shape as the landing gear door as the mold. We used that mold to make sure the ribs we fabricated would match the factory specifications exactly, in addition to making sure the door would fit flush to the fuselage,” said Taylor.

After the parts were fabricated and the metal skin that wasn’t able to be straightened was removed, the ten-person combat metals team set the ribs in place and spliced a new piece of sheet metal on to the landing gear door. After a final fit, trim, and function test, the aircraft was returned to service.

The repair cost the Air Force 229 man-hours, $400 in material, and 264 rivets for an engineer-approved air battle damage repair procedure—a repair that’s usually beyond field-level capabilities. In total, the efforts of the combat metals team saved the Air Force almost $107,000 in replacement cost by making it work with what they had over the course of the three-day repair, as well as returning the aircraft to service eight days early.

“I’m very proud of this team for the way they problem-solved this damage repair,” said Maj. Odi Diambra, the 386th EMXS Commander. “It shows that they truly understand how important the mission is here and are willing to work hard, think outside the box and put their skills to the test to keep our planes flying and maintain our combat capabilities.”