Air Force Featured Stories

Maintainers' ingenuity saves AF money, time

  • Published
  • By William C. Pope
  • 439th Airlift Wing Public Affairs
Nowhere in the 439th Airlift Wing’s mission statement does it say anything about Yankee ingenuity, but it should because when Westover Air Reserve Base maintainers recently needed a part for a C-5A Galaxy, they made it themselves.

Members of the 439th Maintenance Squadron discovered they needed an elevator support bracket as soon as possible for C-5 aircraft number 69-0020, the oldest operational C-5A in the Air Force fleet. To return the aircraft to mission-capable status, the team fabricated a large bracket from an even larger block of aluminum, which is expected to save the Air Force time and tens of thousands of dollars.

Gary Surozenski, a metals technician at the Regional Isochronal Inspection hangar, served as the lead machinist on the project, with assistance from machinists Tech. Sgt. Richard Towlson and Master Sgt. John Vescovi, who helped input the design and information for the bracket into the computer-assisted drawing program.

“This type of repair, in the tech data, is listed as ‘depot repairable only,’ so we had to lobby [the] depot at Warner-Robins AFB, Georgia for approval,” said Lt. Col. Jordan Murphy, the 439th Maintenance Squadron commander. “The whole project had to be created from scratch, and it shows our ability for unique manufacturing like this.”

They received depot approval to manufacture the part on Sept. 26. It took five days to complete the project, and material costs totaled $1,500. The time and cost savings are significant when compared to the month-long turnaround and $50,000 in costs if the part was ordered through an outside source.

The part started as a 100-pound aluminum slab in the machine shop. Using Surozenksi’s CAD program data, a milling machine and the skills of Towlson, the process began.

“Most of the hands-on work was done here in the machine shop,” Towlson said. “With the setup of the milling machine and the hand-operated machining, there’s a lot of back and forth between the blueprint, machining, and measuring to make sure the tolerances are correct.”

The meticulous machining work done by Towlson’s shop was exacting, and before being installed on the aircraft, the six-pound part needed to undergo a non-destructive inspection.

“We want to make sure there are no defects or cracks in the metal,” said Master Sgt. Thomas Pitts, the NCO in charge of NDI. “It takes about an hour for the inspection using a chemical process to expose any problems.”

Once the part clears NDI, it will be given to the sheet metal shop, where they will drill holes in it and install it in the aircraft.