The cradle is positioned to receive the F-16 fuselage being crated and packed for shipment to Hill AFB. The aircraft must be supported in specific locations to eliminate unnecessary stress and damage to the airframe. This specific depot team consists of 56 individuals from five career fields. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Sandra Welch)
Tech. Sgt. Robert Baldwin and Staff Sgt. Jimmy Kitchens, 309th Aircraft Maintenance Group depot aircraft maintenance technicians from Hill Air Force Base, Utah, prepare to lift an F-16 Oct. 9 at Luke Air Force Base in Hangar 984. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Sandra Welch)
The 309th Aircraft Maintenance Group depot team from Hill prepares to lift the F-16 fuselage during the pack and crate operation. The “belly bands” are capable of lifting an aircraft with an approximate weight of 25,000 pounds. Depot teams deploy worldwide to perform specific and critical repairs on U.S. and foreign military fighter aircraft. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Sandra Welch)
by Airman 1st Class Grace Lee
56th Fighter Wing Public Affairs
10/26/2012 - LUKE AIR FORCE BASE, Ariz. -- Boxing and shipping F-16s is not a typical occurrence at Luke Air Force Base, but that's exactly what a group of Airmen from Hill Air Force Base, Utah, came here to do.
"We were sent to Luke Air Force Base Oct. 1 in order to pack and ship an F-16, since there was some damage to the harnesses or wiring (which controls) multiple electrical components," said Tech. Sgt. Leonard Deleon, 309th Aircraft Maintenance Group depot fuel systems technician. "Given the amount of damage on the aircraft, aircraft engineers decided it should go to Hill where it will be repaired."
Luke is capable of repairing minor damages, but the repairs needed for this F-16 required outside resources.
"The F-16 is being sent to Hill because the wiring repair needed is a higher level of repair than what Luke is capable of doing," said Tech. Sgt. Jason Koth, 309th AMXG depot aircraft maintenance technician. "Hill is one of three bases that do this type of repair, since they have the special equipment, tools and facilities needed to make the repair."
Koth said the Airmen from Hill always come prepared with the necessary equipment because shipping an aircraft such as an F-16 is no small feat.
"We had to pack items such as tools, specially designed boxes used for shipment of aircraft components and a fuselage cradle," Koth said. "We won't leave our home station until we know all the items have arrived."
The complex aircraft required the Airmen's various expertise to be dismantled safely and successfully.
"We are a team of 10 Airmen made up of one team chief, two crew chiefs, one sheet metal, five electricians and one fuels technician," Koth said. "Each person plays a specific role in taking apart the aircraft, and we are also trained to do each other's jobs. So, for example, if we don't have any sheet-metal work to do we can move that person into another slot. This makes the process go a lot smoother."
Koth said it takes about two weeks and approximately 800 man hours to take apart the F-16 from start to finish.
For the 309th AMXG Airmen, Luke is one of many places they have visited this year.
"Our job is a special duty, which is a four-year commitment," Deleon said. "And there are times we have to make sacrifices for the sake of the mission. We are sometimes gone up to two months at a time."
Despite these many sacrifices, for one Airman being a part of the 309th AMXG is an honor.
"Doing this job has been one of the highlights of my career because I love to travel and because you'll never see the type of stuff we do in the depot world out on the flightline," Koth said.