When it gets broken, AMXS gets fixin'

WHITEMAN AIR FORCE BASE, Mo. -- The A-10 Thunderbolt II is an aircraft designed for battle, equipped with a wide variety of conventional munitions and a highly accurate and survivable weapons-delivery platform. The aircraft can loiter near battle areas for extended periods of time and operate in low ceiling and poor visibility conditions to support ground troops.

Despite its mechanical prowess, the A-10 jet requires a 1-2 phase inspection every 500 hours to ensure the aircraft is functioning properly.

The 442nd Aircraft Maintenance Squadron structural maintenance shop works behind the scenes fixing and repairing aircraft parts that have been damaged.

While in flight, the A-10 jets are faced with the dangers of bird strikes, inclement weather and the recoil from armament usage. While undergoing repair in the shop, they are threatened by human error.

When flying at more than 300 miles per hour, birds the size of hawks could cause damage to the A-10's windshield, body or wing. Extreme weather, such as hail, can cause dents to the body of the aircraft. Each time a weapon is used, it vibrates the air frame, which could result in cracks. Lastly, human error involves the possibility of stands and tools being dropped while in use, according to Master Sgt. Gary Rose, 442nd Aircraft Maintenance Squadron flight chief.

To combat these issues, the 442nd AMXS A-10 phase hangar crew members are constantly inspecting the A-10 jets by de-paneling and breaking them down to find any internal discrepancies. Once the damaged parts are identified, they are sent to the structural maintenance shop for repair, according to Staff Sgt. Aaron Williams, 442nd AMXS structural maintenance apprentice.

"The 442nd A-10 phase hangar crew members handle the inspection side while we work on the skin and skeleton of the aircraft," he said. "We fabricate new parts to replace damaged parts and use rivet plates, which are attached to the aircraft's wings and hold the screws in place, to the aircraft's body."

Like their crew member counterpart, the structural maintenance shop uses an array of tools to fix or repair the aircraft parts, according to Williams.

"We use tools such as hand drills, tubing equipment and bending machines," he said. "We use the hand drills to drill rivets into panels, tubing equipment for hydraulic lines and bending machines, such as the concise, and the box and pan power brakes to fabricate flat metal to different angles for the A-10 jets or local manufacturers."

Williams added that they paint and repair any aerospace ground equipment dealing with the aircraft such as the hydraulic mule. Anytime the aircraft's hydraulic systems are ground-operated, a hydraulic mule takes the place of the pumps on the engine to work the aircraft's flight controls, weapons and flaps.

Despite the rigorous task of ensuring the A-10 jet remains in top fighting condition, the passion, hard work and dedication to get the job done is displayed daily by the 442nd AMXS.

"I've been doing this since 1989," said Rose. "I love the people I work with and every day is new."