MIGHTY TACTICAL
Senior Airman Benjamin Cooper

How the Air Force's metals techs keep aircraft flying

(US Air Force/Tech. Sgt. Emerson Nuñez)

The 100th Maintenance Squadron's aircraft metals technology technicians aim to achieve the highest levels of precision when grinding, welding, fabricating or repairing parts for Team Mildenhall aircraft.

For the airmen of the aircraft metals technology section, it's their job to ensure that Team Mildenhall has the tools and parts needed to accomplish the mission.


"Metals technology repairs, modifies and manufactures aircraft and ground equipment parts or anything needed to accomplish the mission," said Senior Airman Samuel Muncrief, 100th MXS aircraft metals technician journeyman.

"We also fabricate tools for other shops; there are parts on our aircraft that they no longer make tools for, so we make the new part and the tool to remove the old one."

When it comes to welding, grinding or fabricating, the airmen of metals technology have a reputation for excellence, and it's well deserved.

Staff Sgt. Brandon Telles, 100th Maintenance Squadron aircraft metals technician craftsman, uses a tungsten inert gas welder on a fire inlet door at RAF Mildenhall, England, January 7, 2020.

(US Air Force/Senior Airman Benjamin Cooper)

"Every day we are dealing with tight tolerances, or how much we can be over or under on the dimensions of a part," said Staff Sgt. Brandon Telles, 100th MXS aircraft metals technician craftsman. "Usually, we are dealing with tolerances the size of a strand of hair: I enjoy the challenge, it forces you to pay close attention to your work."

In a profession with such exacting standards, it's important to continue to learn and improve.

Staff Sgt. Brandon Telles, 100th Maintenance Squadron aircraft metals technician craftsman, welds a fire inlet door at RAF Mildenhall, England, January 7, 2020.

(US Air Force/Senior Airman Benjamin Cooper)

"We are constantly learning, and we start by studying the basic concepts in training, and when we arrive at our shop, we begin to master our craft," Telles explained. "We have 16-year veterans who still learn something new every day."

In addition to their primary job, the aircraft metals shop helps save Team Mildenhall thousands of dollars.

US Air Force Senior Airman Austin Good, 100th Maintenance Squadron electrical and environmental systems journeyman, weighs a carbon dioxide bottle for aircraft life support systems at RAF Mildenhall, England, May 20, 2019.

(US Air Force/Senior Airman Luke Milano)

"Today we worked on a part which could be outsourced to the civilian sector for $16,000," Telles said. "We've already completed eight of those parts and we will complete two more; it adds up to a considerable sum."

Innovation and creative solutions are also key for aircraft metals technicians, sometimes leading them to gather insight outside of their shop.

Senior Airman Samuel Muncrief, 100th Maintenance Squadron aircraft metals technician journeyman, uses a pencil grinder on a part at RAF Mildenhall, England, January 7, 2020.

(US Air Force/Senior Airman Benjamin Cooper)

"We speak with engineers and gather information from blue prints to get exact dimensions and determine what a part needs to be made of," Telles said. "Occasionally, the blueprints don't match the aircraft perfectly and we have to go out to the aircraft and measure; it's a lot of precision work."

The metals technology shop has a considerable impact on the mission, but for them its just business as usual.

Senior Airman Samuel Muncrief, 100th Maintenance Squadron aircraft metals technician journeyman, uses a pneumatic grinder to modify a part at RAF Mildenhall, England, January 7, 2020.

(US Air Force/Senior Airman Benjamin Cooper)

"In a way we are the last line of defense. When a crew chief finds something that needs to be fixed it comes to us," Telles said. "At that point, we have to fix it, weld it or replace it and if we don't get it done the plane doesn't fly."

This article originally appeared on United States Air Force. Follow @USAF on Twitter.