MOUNTAIN HOME AIR FORCE BASE, Idaho- Just over a year ago, an F-15E Strike Eagle attempted to land on this base flight-line. When it started to land, the landing gear underneath the aircraft immediately collapsed, damaging several structural components that housed the landing gear attachments. Though no one was injured or killed, this caused the aircraft to be downed for significant maintenance and has been stuck on this base ever since.
On, July 6, 2021, Airmen from the 366th Maintenance Squadron’s (MXS) Metals Technology section began production on a critical structural beam within the main landing gear wheel, known as a trunnion beam. A trunnion beam houses the main landing gear strut in which the gear pivots when lowering and raising.
“The trunnion beam is zero balance in the AF supply inventory and has to be worked and manufactured by a vendor ‘on demand’ with a long lead time of two years,” said Master Sgt. John Doyle, 366th MXS Metals Section chief. “This alone brought the project to a halt and if it wasn’t for Metals Technology here on base this jet would continue to sit.”
The Metals Technology section is within the Fabrication Flight in the 366th MXS. They are known to create parts out of raw metal stock material that can help repair aircraft and aerospace ground equipment. Their recent task is to create a trunnion beam in a month’s time. This is the first time anyone at the field level in the Air Force has attempted to fabricate an intricate part such as this.
“We can make or fix anything within reason,” said Senior Airman Luke Haener, 366th MXS Metals Technology journeyman. “Our job is the closest thing to engineering, without being called engineers because we work with blueprints and we have to think critically on how this part can improve the situation once it’s made.”
To make a trunnion beam, the Metals Technology Airmen use a Computer Numeric Control machine (CNC). This machine uses a cutter tool of varying types and with careful calculations and coordinate data inputted into the machine, it will respond accordingly and make precision cuts to any block material that the Airmen place into the machine.
“That will be the only other challenge in this project,” said Staff Sgt. Glenn Brown, 366th MXS Metals Technology craftsman. “This is why we have the plastic versions as prototypes for the trunnion beam. We have to get it as dimensionally correct as possible due to the complexity of the part we are making.”
Once they are finished with the plastic prototypes and checked if the right cuts were made, they move on to a block of aluminum and have the CNC machine cut it exactly as before, creating the trunnion beam.
The Depot Field team usually produces these types of parts, but due to long lead times of three other courses of action to acquire this part, the Metals Technology Airmen are attempting to produce it locally. After the product is completed, a Depot Field team will install the newly manufactured trunnion beam into the aircraft.
Though a part of this caliber has never been accomplished before on base, the Metals Technology Airmen have risen to the occasion at hand in addition to expanding their knowledge for future challenges and enhancing readiness.
“I think it’s an awesome opportunity,” said Staff Sgt. Glenn Brown, 366th MXS Metals Technology craftsman. “On this base, where we were given the opportunity to participate in a couple of projects for the first time at our level of maintenance so to have something of this caliber to come up, it would allow us to gain experience, confidence and learn miles ahead than what we would normally learn if we had just stayed at our immediate level.”