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The American Chopper of Aircraft Maintenance

U.S. Air Force Senior Airman Courtnee Grafton, 380th Expeditionary Maintenance Squadron metal technician, welds a piece of metal at Al Dhafra Air Base, United Arab Emirates, Dec. 9, 2018. The 380th EMXS fabrication flight is in charge of identifying and repairing aircraft structural damage.  (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Mya M. Crosby)

U.S. Air Force Senior Airman Courtnee Grafton, 380th Expeditionary Maintenance Squadron metal technician, welds a piece of metal at Al Dhafra Air Base, United Arab Emirates, Dec. 9, 2018. The 380th EMXS fabrication flight is in charge of identifying and repairing aircraft structural damage. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Mya M. Crosby)

AL DHAFRA AIR BASE, United Arab Emirates (AFNS) -- With the eight 13 hour flights the aircraft of the 380th Air Expeditionary Wing have on a daily basis, some parts of the aircraft can wear down, crack or break over periods of time.

The 380th Expeditionary Maintenance Squadron fabrication flight, also known as “Fab Flight” or the “American Chopper” of aircraft maintenance at Al Dhafra Air Base, United Arab Emirates, is in charge of identifying and repairing aircraft structural damage. They fix whatever can be broken, from a metal panel off the side of a KC-10 Extender to a tiny cracked screw the size of a fingernail.

“Members of the fabrication flight are true artists,” said Master Sgt. Charles Silvas, 380th EMXS fabrication flight chief. “They are able to evaluate damage and visualize—in three dimensions—the repair necessary to return mission essential aircraft back to original serviceable condition. Then they are able to take flat metal and transform it into three-dimensional repairs in a time-sensitive environment with stringent guidelines.”

Many jobs in the maintenance field have written instructions to assist them in most troubleshooting situations, but the Sheet Metals section has a vast amount of factors when it comes to fixing parts, causing them to have to think outside the box more often than not.

“The nature of changing out parts makes it simple to write instructions tailored to every step in the process,” said Tech. Sgt. Garrett W. Magnie, 380th EMXS fabrication flight NCO in charge. “With fabrication however, whether it be machining a new part, welding on aircraft, or determining the best approach to restoring the structural integrity of the airframe to original strength, weight, and contour, our repair processes require that we utilize the instructions within the technical data as well as our experience in order to execute the most safe and efficient solution.”

The Sheet Metals shop is in charge of receiving deficient parts from all over the installation and fixing them, making them a very cost-efficient method, rather than purchasing a new part.

Like the Sheet Metals shop, the Non-Destructive Inspection shop supports all of the aircraft assigned to the 380th AEW using various techniques involving technology with their innovative ways.

“Most of our work requires us to trust our judgement and knowledge,” said Airman Isaiah Edwards, 380th EMXS NDI technician. “We are capable of combining science with technology to evaluate the integrity of structures, metals, system components, and fluids without causing any damage, or impairing future usefulness to any parts. We do all this in a cost-effective way while still using extremely technical and accurate methods.”

Through understanding their significant role, using top-notch precision, and trusting their gut, the Fab Flight continues to do their part in achieving mission success.

“The Fabrication Flight accomplishes this mission by identifying and repairing aircraft structural damage and ensuring aircraft motors are ready to accomplish the mission,” Silvas said. “The Fabrication Flight is essential to keeping mission capable aircraft available to provide air superiority in the region, supporting both America and her allies.”

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