AUAB Fabrication Flight: fabricate to innovate
By Staff Sgt. Kylee Gardner, 379th Air Expeditionary Wing
/ Published September 22, 2021
AL UDEID AIR BASE, Qatar --
Whether they’re welding, heat-treating, inspecting, repairing or fabricating equipment, the 379th Expeditionary Maintenance Squadron Fabrication Flight has a hand in assisting all organizations across the installation. However, what distinguishes them is their innovative mindset that allows them to take what was once extra scrap metal lying around and change it into something that fixes Air Force-wide problems.
Recently, this team created two tools to benefit personnel and fix processes: first, a dual bracket connector clip, which secures communication cords to aircrew helmets during flight; and second, a custom-size steel washer that fastens on a fuel truck actuating valve used for refueling aircraft.
“With these innovations, we were able to solve and upgrade fleet wide part procurement issues, minimizing equipment down time, cutting the manning requirement per refuels, and relieving discomfort and possible safety issues for pilots while operating aircraft,” said Staff Sgt. Blake Burleigh, 379th EMXS aircraft metals technology craftsman. “We used our immediate available resources and fabricated these solutions to solve both problems.”
Before the Fabrication Flight developed and created the connector clip, a continual issue for pilots was the communication cord rubbing against their face while operating aircraft. However, this innovation made it so the pilots were more comfortable and free of the distraction. This clip is currently being utilized at Al Udeid AB, but is in the process to be approved for use Air Force wide.
While the clip assisted pilots for multiple airframes, the steel washer solved a larger, base-wide problem for aircraft fuel trucks. Prior to the tool being made, the personnel who operate the trucks used the original factory-made plastic washer strike plate, which would break and disintegrate over time, causing the refueling valve to become inoperable. Now, thanks to the Fabrication Flight, aircraft can be refueled safely and effectively.
According to Senior Master Sgt. Trevor Frankel, 379th EMXS Fabrication Flight chief, these innovations were made with limited resources the team had lying around as extra parts, which saved the Air Force thousands of dollars and months of time it would have taken to have a contractor create them.
“With the skillset within the Fabrication Flight, we sometimes impress ourselves,” said Master Sgt. Matthew Lucia, 379th EMXS aircraft metals technology NCO in charge. “Whether it’s an innovation that makes a process safer, quicker or saves millions of dollars, a sense of pride and accomplishment is normally tied to finishing a project. Airmen that complete these innovations also gain a real world view as to how big their impact is and it gives them a sense of purpose while being deployed.”
The innovations of the team not only enhanced the mission of the 379th Air Expeditionary Wing, but the tenant units on the installation as well.
“Our team is extremely hard working and always striving for excellence,” said Frankel. “Our Airmen are dedicated to design, manufacture and enhance any project that comes through our shop.”