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Keeping the Eagle in the Air: The story of Metal Fabrication

  • Published
  • By Staff Sgt. Sean Campbell
  • 142nd Wing/Public Affairs

PORTLAND, OR  -- Tucked away on base is the unassuming metals technology shop. The exterior gives no clue to the mission critical work that goes on behind those walls.

Metals technology Airmen produce parts and tools for different units around their respective bases. Whether for aircraft or Aerospace Ground Equipment (AGE), ammo or other maintenance back shops, metals tech supports their missions by creating what’s needed to keep the 142nd Wing flying effectively and efficiently.

One of the primary benefits of their shop is the ability to fabricate parts much faster than it would take to order them from a manufacturer. A part that may take five days to be shipped to the unit could be made in a much shorter period of time. This expedites the ability for maintenance Airmen to get aircraft back in commission.

“We have the ability as a unit to say, ‘hey stop what you are doing. We need to have this part made,’ and then have that part made in hours or even minutes,” said Staff Sgt. Nathan Carssow, an aircraft metals technology craftsman with the 142nd Maintenance Squadron.

Another huge benefit of metal fabrication is being able to bridge the gap when parts are needed which are no longer being produced or manufactured. Recently the unit fabricated an aluminum stringer for an F-15C Eagle tail cone. The fact that the metal fabrication shop was able to make this part saved the wing money and reduced the aircraft’s repair time.

In fiscal year 2023, the metals tech shop assisted in generating $1.2 million in Air Force Repair Enhancement Program (AFREP) funds. AFREP is aimed at enhancing self-sufficiency across the Air Force, and the metal fabrication shop plays a prominent role in this effort.

With the notable and measurable impact the metals tech shop has on the wing’s readiness and mission success, metals technology Airmen understand the importance and impact of their daily work.

“In the more intricate parts of our job, if an aircraft is in need of something, like the bushings, it's not going to fly until our shop finishes the project,” said Tech. Sgt. Nate Brown, a 142nd Maintenance Squadron metals technology craftsman. “ …When a job is serious enough to need metals tech, it's not going to fly until we finish the project that's been given to us.”

The metals tech shop is able to create all the different parts and tools by using an array of manual lathes, CNC (Computer Numerical Control) mills, 3d printers, welding tools, and various other tools that allow them to shape metals into useable parts and tools.

A common task the metals tech shop performs here is removing stuck screws from jets. According to Brown, this is a relatively easy task, but it is crucial to keeping airframes flying. This contrasts with the technical knowledge and unique set of skills needed to produce aircraft grade parts, starting with metals and ending with a polished part that keeps the plane in the air.

Despite being tucked away and out of sight for the most part, the metals fabrication shop provides mission critical support throughout the 142nd Wing. Without this cost-and-time-saving capability, the mission could not be carried out as effectively or efficiently as it is.