There's no good offense without good defense
By Airman 1st Class Keenan Berry, 509th Bomb Wing Public Affairs
/ Published June 24, 2014
WHITEMAN AIR FORCE BASE, Mo. --
The B-2 Spirit is an aircraft with unique offensive capabilities and a good offense starts with a good defense.
The 509th Maintenance Squadron Low Observable Maintenance flight makes sure the B-2's defense is maintained well within its stealth ability every day.
"We work on time consuming projects that can range anywhere from a month to three or four months," said Senior Airman Alexander Ramirez, 509th MXS Low Observable aircraft structural technician. "This project takes everything that we can't do day-to-day and allows us time to work on them for an extended period of time. This includes breaking the aircraft down to its bare back, applying paint coatings and taking off tape."
The concept of the tape is to keep one smooth surface throughout the aircraft and it helps apply other coatings.
Removing gap fillers on an aircraft is a high maintenance task performed regularly. It applies to all Air Force aircraft and is done to help maintain smooth transition of the gaps when coatings and tapes are applied. The gap fillers are a highly oiled area; the oil saturations cause the area to lose its cohesiveness and melt the paint away.
Like many maintenance shops, the Low Observable Maintenance unit relies on operating instructions as guidelines to help them when performing tasks.
"We are limited on the tools we use to prevent damage to the aircraft," said Staff Sgt. Michael Gallegos, 509th MXS Low Observable aircraft structural technician. "For example, we can't use metal tools; we have to use plastic or hard rubber tools. There has to be a barrier between us and any deeper than the skin of the aircraft. This is the reason we wear booties while we are doing tasks on the aircraft. The hard rubber on our boots can damage the paint easily. There are also certain areas we can't walk on because the coatings will crack, causing extended repairs."
For basic maintenance such as removing tape, the Low Observable Maintenance flight wears coveralls. For coatings, they wear ti-vex and a respirator or face shield depending on what they are working on. Their operating instructions on which they are briefed and adhere to every day establish these guidlines
Along with adhering to their operating instructions, the Low Observable Maintenance flight must be aware of the hazards around their work center.
"The dangers of working in this job are falling hazards and chemicals," said Ramirez. "When we are working on the aircraft, we must constantly be aware of where we are and our footing to avoid falling off the sides. When working with chemicals, donning the appropriate personal protective equipment can avoid potential harmful situations."
Despite the midst of hazards and instructions, the MXS Low Observable Maintenance flight enjoys their job.
"I enjoy the opportunity of working alongside this unique aircraft," said Gallegos. "Not many people in my career field can say they've had the chance to do so, that makes my job all the more special."