MOUNTAIN HOME AIR FORCE BASE, ID, UNITED STATES
Repairs on aircraft are conducted with efficiency to maintain mission readiness and ensure rapid mobility. Two Airmen from the 366th Maintenance Squadron used their skills and ingenuity to craft a repair item, called a spar, designed for an F-15E Strike Eagle’s wing, Sept. 30, 2019.
Aircraft structural mechanics from Robins Air Force Base, Georgia, inspected the aircraft and after finding a wing deficiency, declared a need for a repair.
The spar is a part of the leading edge of an F-15E wing and are primarily made by the 402nd Commodities Maintenance Group at Robins AFB. However, due to a mechanical complication with the machine used to make the parts, the production process became delayed.
Tech. Sgt. Kevin Collins and Staff Sgt. David Petrich, 366th MXS metal fabrication mechanics, got approval from Robins AFB to fabricate the part and decided to take on the challenge of crafting the spar through innovative use of their shop’s machinery.
“We looked at the machinery we have and came to the conclusion we were able to build it ourselves,” Petrich said.
This is the first time a repair project like this has been done at Mountain Home AFB and the first time it has been undertaken by any field level unit in the Air Force.
“We called the aircraft structural mechanics team at Robins AFB and told them if they sent the measurements, we have the machining capabilities to build the part,” Collins said.
While Collins led the material-acquisition and measuring portion, Petrich tackled the hands-on fabrication of the spar.
During the construction of the part, Petrich cut 200 pounds out of a 220-pound beam of alloy to form the spar. The end product was a light yet extremely durable part.
The willingness for Collins and Petrich to create the piece with haste allowed them to cut down the overall repair process by a fraction of the time, as Robins AFB estimated their ability to continue constructing spar parts would be restored after at least six months.
“We were able to fabricate the spar in six days,” Collins said.
John Swoveland, along with Josh Collins, civilian aircraft structural mechanics from the 402nd CMXG at Robins AFB, conducted the installation of the spar and repair of the leading edge of the wing. They were able to complete the project within a few days.
Swoveland mentioned the prime reason for ordering the repair was because a previous mend on the same section used a method meant for an older model of the aircraft.
“What we’re doing saves the life of the plane,” Swoveland said. “This repair prevents the aircraft from suffering stress fluctuations in the wing that occur during flight.”
Swoveland explained if the repair wasn’t done, there was a greater risk of the wing suffering irreparable damage.
Thanks to the 366th MXS metal fabrication mechanics and the 402nd CMXG aircraft structural mechanics driving innovation, the Gunfighters can continue the fight, trusting their aircraft can perform to its full capabilities while soaring the skies.
Using their expertise to construct the spar at home base, they positively impacted the tactical and strategic value of the F-15E, ensuring the preservation of mission readiness and rapid mobility. Their teamwork potentially saved the Air Force millions of dollars in valuable resources, supporting the Air Force’s primary mission, air superiority.