Maintaining aircraft structural integrity

  • Published
  • By Airman 1st Class Jonathan McElderry
  • Minot Air Force Base Public Affairs

When an aircraft at Minot Air Force Base is damaged, the 5th Maintenance Squadron aircraft structural maintainers take charge in the repairing process.

These Airmen ensure the aircraft is fixed and ready to fly, through methods like sanding, corrosion and tubing to either build or install replacement parts.

Trained to perform maintenance on any aircraft, such as B-52H Stratofortresses and F-16 Fighting Falcons, these maintainers restore the structural integrity to help maintain a safe and serviceable aircraft.

“Our main job is to keep aircraft structural integrity up to par so they can fly without issues and the pilots can do their job,” said Senior Airman Mikal Joyce, 5 MXS aircraft structural maintenance journeyman.

Joyce, one of approximately 44 Airmen in the shop here, also talked about how their job is critical to the Air Force mission.

“As aircraft structural maintainers, we’re like the bloodline of maintenance,” Joyce said. “Every maintenance unit is important, but without structural maintainers, the planes cannot fly and will also fall apart.”

Joyce also noted a unique thing about the aircraft structural maintenance shop here compared to other bases. Maintainers here work on specific types of metal compared to Airmen at other bases.

“This is the best base to come for our career field because we get a lot more sheet metal experience,” Joyce said.

Airman 1st Class Dustin Pace, 5 MXS aircraft structural maintenance apprentice, added that as a new Airman, the extensive work with sheet metal has given him a skillset that would usually take longer to achieve at other bases.

“This unit is the heart of sheet metal,” Pace said. “This is exactly the type of place to learn the job as an aircraft structural maintainer inside and out.”

Joyce noted how the job can also be challenging in various ways.

“It definitely gets tough at times,” Joyce said. “For instance, drilling a hole may seem easy, but when you have to drill hundreds of holes that must be lined up correctly, it is more difficult than what it sounds.”

Despite these challenges, Joyce noted the best way to overcome them is to strive through.

Joyce and Pace also mentioned that their sense of pride comes from persevering through daily challenges and performing their structural maintenance duties.

“To know that our repairs help get the aircraft back in the air so pilots can complete their mission is what gives me more than enough pride to say I love what I do,” Joyce said.