Air Force Featured Stories

Airmen keep F-16s rolling

  • Published
  • By Tech. Sgt. Eric Donner
  • 31st Fighter Wing Public Affairs
The F-16 Fighting Falcon is a highly technological, maneuverable, multirole fighter aircraft capable of reaching speeds of Mach 2 when in the air, but without wheels and tires, it is nothing more than a static display.

The Airmen of the 31st Maintenance Squadron’s wheel and tire shop ensure the multimillion-dollar F-16s are able to taxi, take off and land safely.

"The only way the aircraft can take off and land is with wheels and tires," said Staff Sgt. Troy Metivier, a 31st MXS wheel and tire specialist. "It is just as important as any part of the aircraft."

When looking at the complexity of an aircraft, it is easy to see why the simple wheels and tires can be overlooked. However, if this simple piece of equipment fails, it can cause a lot of damage.

"Preventative maintenance makes it cheaper in the long run," Metivier said. "Like replacing the tires on your car, it helps ensure the aircraft has traction on the tarmac and avoid accidents.

"A lot of effort goes into working on the wheels and replacing the tires. There is more to the process than many people think and it's not that easy."

When a tire has exceeded the max wear limit it is replaced and the wheel is thoroughly cleaned and inspected. Each part of the wheel is hand cleaned and inspected for any abnormalities that may compromise the wheel or tire. After passing a final inspection, the wheel is reassembled and a new tire is put on.

"The process of breakdown, cleaning and inspection takes approximately an hour," Metivier said. "There is an additional three-hour wait time to ensure the rubber expands and a 12-hour wait to ensure the tire holds air pressure."

At home station, the process is routine, although time-consuming. While deployed, the back shop has to transport all of the equipment needed to change the tires and conduct the wheel inspections, which can complicate the routine process. With the partnership of the Polish air force's wheel and tire shop, Airmen here have everything they need.

"The Polish air force has everything we need to change out a tire," Metivier said. "The only items we need to bring are the bench stock and tools. It saves a lot of room when deploying. If we couldn't use these facilities, we would have to pack an additional pallet of equipment.

"The use of Polish facilities not only enables us to work from a forward deployed location in Poland but also gives the Airmen a chance to share knowledge with each other," he said.

"It is a great opportunity to see how they do their job and their process," said Senior Airman Taylor Hendricks, a 31st MXS wheel and tire specialist. "Their processes may be something we can learn and take back to our shop."

As NATO allies, it is important that all facets of the mission have the ability to work together successfully. The opportunity for the maintenance Airmen to work together builds rapport and interoperability between the two air forces.

"Our processes are very similar, and we don't have a problem helping out," said Polish air force Senior Sgt Przemyslaw Dudzicki, (equivalent to U.S. Air Force staff sergeant) the wheel and tire shop NCO in charge. "We also have a chance to work together and practice our English."

The F-16s from the 510th Fighter Squadron and Airmen from the 31st Fighter Wing at Aviano Air Base, Italy, are here conducting joint training as part of the rotation at the aviation detachment. The 31st FW is supporting NATO exercises and bilateral training with the Polish air force designed to increase interoperability.