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NEWS | Feb. 25, 2013

Metals Technology: The 'Last Chance Shop'

By Senior Airman Teresa Aber 633rd Air Base Wing Public Affairs

The noise of metal on metal grinding overwhelms the room. On one side of the room, water bubbles in a machine; sparks fly on the other. With such seeming chaos, it's hard to believe many of us pass this place on our daily commute.

In the 1st Maintenance Squadron's Metals Technology shop, ten of Langley's Airmen can be found welding metal, manufacturing parts for F-22A Raptors or repairing just about any type of metal that has been torn or broken on base.

"A lot of shops know us as the 'last chance shop,'" said U.S. Air Force Staff Sgt. Raymond Russell, 1st MXS Metals Technology aircraft metals technologist. "If we can't fix it, it most likely can't be fixed."

When the T-38 Talons came to Langley, Metals Technology manufactured 24 different fixtures and over 100,000 tools to be used on the aircraft for regular maintenance. According to Master Sgt. Daniel Davis, 1st MXS Metals Technology shop chief, the small shop must possess keen characteristics to be able to accomplish so much for the base.

"We have to be very detailed and focused on quality," said Davis. "Being part of such a small shop challenges us to stay focused on quality and safety. Accomplishing the mission given our size gives us a great sense of pride."

While Metals technology shines when repairing aircraft equipment, their job encompasses much more. Metals technologists at Langley have also worked on air conditioning units, tire cages and hospital construction supplies, said Davis.

"We work with engineers quite often to manufacture things for the F-22s that have to be very precise and specific," said Davis. "Our job never gets boring because people also come to us with things that are broken that may require a little bit of creativity to figure out how to fix."

In a job involving such a wide variety of equipment, precision and attention to detail play large roles in quality assurance.

"We can manufacture just about anything," said Russell. "But if we make a screw just one-thousandth of an inch too big or too small, that whole piece of equipment is at risk of failing."

In addition to perfecting their technical skills, metals technologists also work hard to reduce costs for Langley and the Air Force. By not having to contract out to local civilian welding and machining companies, the Air Force saves money on transporting the equipment, as well as time and resources on contracts.

"There are a lot of things that break, then get thrown away and have to be replaced," said Russell. "People are thrilled when they learn they can bring those things to us and instead of having to completely replace the piece of equipment, we can pretty much rebuild the old one from the ground up."

Metals technologists encompass highly developed mechanical skills with a little touch of artistic capabilities. In this shop, there's always something new or different to work on, giving these Airmen plenty of chances to get creative, while cost-effectively supporting the Langley mission.