ANDERSEN AIR FORCE BASE, GUAM - Behind the scenes of the 36th Wing, Airmen from the 36th Maintenance Squadron fabrication flight work around the clock to ensure aircraft fly smoothly.
The flight is responsible for repairs of aircraft structural components and is the sole repair facility for any aircraft that arrives on the flightline.
Currently, Airmen assigned to the 36th MXS fabrication flight are a mixture of permanent party and deployed Airmen from Minot Air Force Base, supporting the Continuous Bomber Presence in the Indo-Asia-Pacific region.
“Our mission is to support any transient aircraft, service foreign nations, sister agencies and sister forces,” said Master Sgt. Robert Madsen, 36th MXS fabrication flight chief. “We support anybody that needs airframe help while they’re on this island, with the primary aircraft we maintain being the B-52’s.”
The flight is split into three sections comprised of aircraft structural maintenance, aircraft metals technology and non-destructive inspection. The fabrication flight is responsible for performing a wide range of structural repairs to ensure aircraft are in the best condition.
The aircraft structural maintenance section is responsible for the structural maintenance and corrosion control on transient and deployed aircraft, which includes inspecting, repairing, painting and removal of corrosion on support equipment.
Being in Guam brings unique challenges, and we have to go about different ways of doing things, Madsen said.
“In order to accommodate the aspects we do not have, we are in the process of setting up a temporary facility to gain these capabilities,” Madsen said.
The aircraft metals technology section consists of machinists and welders responsible for anything that entails small intricate parts that need to be extremely accurate down to a thousandth of an inch.
Unlike aircraft structural maintenance and metals technology, NDI is responsible for performing inspections of aircraft structural components to identify damages at a microscopic level such as checking for cracks. They employ multiple inspection methods using x-rays, eddy current and black lights.
Composed of more than 40 Airmen, the fabrication flight is charged with providing a quick turn around on repairs and replacement aircraft parts for all of Team Andersen aircraft. The flight averages more than 3,000 maintenance actions annually.
The fabrication flight works to prevent aircraft from returning to the home station for necessary parts. All field level repairs are accomplished in Guam rather than sending the aircraft elsewhere.
“While it is difficult completing the job without all of the resources available to us, we find innovative ways to fix the aircraft,” said Senior Airman Alex Villanueva, 36th MXS aircraft metals technology journeyman. “When we don’t have the parts we need, we manufacture it ourselves using blank metal. We overcome these difficulties by using alternate strategies to complete the mission.”
While overcoming some disadvantages of obtaining parts in Guam, Villanueva said the most rewarding aspect of his job is seeing an aircraft complete a mission and doing his part to ensure it keeps flying.
“In my experience, I've seen some planes that were in pretty bad shape,” said Villanueva. “After all the repairs were completed, and you see that aircraft take off, you feel proud to know you had a part to help fulfill the mission, which is such a great feeling.”
Much like doctors working in an operating room, the 36th MXS fabrication flight Airmen perform their duties skillfully and meticulously so planes are fit to fly.