Another ‘step’ in maintaining the mission

  • Published
  • By Staff Sgt. Cody Dowell
  • Altus Air Force Base Public Affairs

At the 97th Air Mobility Wing, aircrew are trained daily on the C-17 Globemaster III, KC-46 Pegasus and the KC-135 Stratotanker. While training occurs, the 97th Maintenance Group continuously works to keep the mission moving forward.


When the 97th MXG discovers a need for a unique item, the fabrication flight can provide in-house creation. In this case, the flight constructed a three step staircase used to support the C-17 Engine Maintenance Stands.


“Originally the Isochronal (ISO) Maintenance Dock had three step stairs which came with the C-17 Engine Maintenance Stands to easily assist while maneuvering around the C-17 engines,” said John Hatchell, the fabrication flight chief assigned to the 97th MXS. “Other flight’s engine stands didn’t come with three step stairs. They tried to contact the manufacturer, but they couldn’t supply the steps anymore.”


In the fabrication flight the crew performs a wide variety of tasks using specialized tools and equipment to bend, shape and mill replacement pieces all ranging from different sections: Aircraft Structural Maintenance, Low Observable Structural Maintenance, Metals Technology and Non-Destructive Inspection.


“Since a manufacturer could not supply the stairs as requested, this is when maintainers usually come to us for help,” said Hatchell. “Our team measured the existing stairs, sketched a design with the dimensions, made a cut list from the design, and took a 20 foot aluminum rod to cut and weld it all together to make the stairs.”


When constructing the stairs, anti-slip treads were added and designed by another section of the flight. With exception of the materials, it took 48 hours to build two sets of stairs.


“The steps were made from 1 and a half foot square aluminum tubing and one fourth foot flat plate to cover each step, the units were cut to length, fit and tack welded together prior to full welding,” said Hatchell. “The tacking holds the assembly in place until the welder is ready to start the final weld process, the welder will skip around from one part of the stairs to another, which allows the previous weld to cool and not distort.”


The fabrication flight uses precision and skilled work to create new and replacement parts for the aircraft for the 97th AMW. They are constantly finding and assisting with new ways to support the flying mission, while easing the aircraft maintenance process to ensure the maintainers have the tools to keep the mobility mission moving forward.