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Mending a broken wing: 18th EMS keeps Kadena's Eagles flying

  • Published
  • By Staff Sgt. Christopher Marasky
  • 18th Wing Public Affairs
With Kadena's fleet of F-15 Eagles older than most of the Airmen on base, the ability of maintainers to keep them in top fighting shape is vitally important to the mission.

That's where units like Kadena's 18th Equipment Maintenance Squadron Fabrication Flight come into the picture, ensuring on a daily basis that the F-15's are ready to fly around the clock.

"We do the structure repairs to the F-15 fleet, which can be anything to include the skin, the sub-structure and the frame, or any part of the aircraft that is the substance of the aircraft," said Tech. Sgt. Timothy Heggem, 18th EMS flight shop section chief. "We may replace a part, recondition a part, or do an overhaul of an entire section of the aircraft to repair damages." 

The constant stresses of the flying mission here at Kadena, along with the weather that the F-15's must endure over long periods of time, require constant maintenance to keep the aircraft in peak condition, said Sergeant Heggem. 

"These aircraft have been around a while, and some of them are old, so they've taken a lot of beatings through the years," he said. 

When problems are identified with the F-15s, it's up to the structures shop, which consists of the fabrication flight, the metal technologies flight and the non-destructive inspection flight, to get to the bottom of it. The three flights work together to find any flaw in the frame of the aircraft, no matter how small, and repair it to optimal status. 

"Basically, the aircraft we have now wouldn't be able to fly without this shop," said Senior Airman Victor Terrell, 18th EMS structures flight technician. 

The flight uses a variety of unique methods to repair and create new parts for the base's F-15s, said Sergeant Heggem. 

"We form metal by hand; we bend it, stretch it, drill it and shave it, whatever we have to do in order to create the parts we need for the air plane," he said. "We are actually craftsmen, almost artists, in how we form our parts and create the things we create. Any time we create a part, it's always a different process; the concept is the same, but because it's a fluid process, it changes every time." 

The process of creating new metal parts for the F-15 is much like any other crafting skill said Sergeant Heggem. 

"It's like baking a cake. You put a lot of time and effort into making it right, you measure everything out and put it together at the right time, and when it comes out you have a good cake," he said. "That's the same with every repair that we make, you put a lot of time and thought into it, so there's a lot of satisfaction when the job is done, and we have a lot of pride in our work." 

The members of the flight feel that pride in their work every time they see an F-15 go airborne, said Airman Terrell. 

"There's a satisfaction when you see the jets taking off," he said. "You know that you worked on that and it's flying because of the work that you do, and that's rewarding."