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Blue pants to blue skies, 20th AMXS keeps it flying

  • Published
  • By Airman 1st Class Benjamin Ingold
  • 20th Fighter Wing Public Affairs
20th Fighter Wing pilots push their F-16 Fighting Falcons to the limit. As a result, parts are going to need to be replaced. When the vertical stabilizer of a 79th Fighter Squadron jet needed to be replaced due to wear from flight, members of the 20th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron got to work and attached a replacement.

“This was my first time doing this job and it was a learning experience,” said Staff Sgt. William Harris, 20th AMXS tactical aircraft maintainer. “The biggest challenge of this project had to be breaking the torque on the bolts holding the vertical stabilizer on the aircraft. The bolts need approximately 400 pounds of force to break it.”

It is not every day that an aircraft has its vertical stabilizer removed at Shaw.

Fixing the aircraft at Shaw instead of transporting it to Hill Air Force Base, Utah, saves the Air Force man-hours, money and gets the jet ready to fly faster.

“This used to be depot-level maintenance but it’s in our technical orders now and we can accomplish it,” said Harris. “Instead of flying the jet to Hill, we can fix it at Shaw.”

Airman 1st Class Krystin Bartelt, 20th AMXS assistant tactical aircraft maintainer said the group worked with the electrical and environmental, avionics, sheet metal and other shops to prepare the aircraft and its tail.

“It was a long process with many shops involved,” said Bartelt. “Once we discovered the part needed to be replaced, we began finding the correct parts and began the process. There were little roadblocks along the way that we had to work through. We needed to make sure we were all communicating well.”

The replacement also included positioning a crane over the aircraft to lift the stabilizer. This secured all needed support to the new stabilizer, making it ready for flight and transferring all equipment inside the tail to give the pilot power of the controls.

Harris continued to say most maintainers will never remove a vertical stabilizer and it was a good experience for him and his team.

Maintainers passing through the maintenance hangar did double takes at the sight of the jet tail in the air, but for the AMXS team it was an exciting new project.