Jet engine repair: It takes a village

  • Published
  • 35th Public Affairs

The 35th Fighter Wing is home to the 13th and 14th Fighter Squadrons. Due to advanced and persistent threats in the Indo-Pacific region, having combat ready aircraft is essential for deterrence and stability.

The Propulsion Flight is a centralized intermediate repair facility (CIRF) made up of different sections. With the support of the 35th Maintenance Group Engines Management Branch, they are able to supply the 13th and 14th Fighter Squadrons with working F-16 Fighting Falcon engines at a moment's notice. The 35th MXS also provides the same service to other Fighter Squadrons in the region.

Two types of inspections are conducted by the Propulsion Flight: scheduled checks and unscheduled checks. Scheduled checks are booked because parts need periodic inspection. Unscheduled checks occur when an unexpected incident requires the engine be inspected.

When a squadron brings an engine in for inspection, they immediately receive a fully tested and operational engine from the reserve stockpile. Next the Propulsion and Engine Management flights prepare a checklist of what needs to be accomplished to get the engine repaired. After planning and creating the checklist, the engine is taken apart and the repair process begins.

These tests and preparations are crucial for Fighting Falcon aircraft since they are multirole single engine jets. The multiple sections of the Propulsion Flight all work together to accomplish these checks.

The Jet Engine Intermediate Maintenance (JEIM) section operates as the major maintenance teardown and buildup team. JEIM primarily works on the main engine which includes the core, front frame, and gearboxes.

The Accessory section works on different parts of the main engine that JEIM routes to them such as augmenters and exhausts. Working on these pieces separately helps get the engine completed timely and increases efficiency.

“It's a really tight family; we go through a lot of stuff together, but we push through it,'' said Staff Sgt. Michael Ceja, 35th MXS, Accessories dock chief. “We’re known as a smaller section, but it’s one team, one fight. If we’re slow, the other sections are slow; if we’re ahead, we try to help out as much as we can.”

The Support section receives, distributes, and tracks the tools that Airmen in other sections need to repair engines.

“The support section is in charge of all the tools and the special equipment that JEIM and Accessories use to tear down and rebuild the engines, and we also support the Test Cell with some of their daily tasks,” said Staff Sgt. Joseph Santos, 35th MXS Support Section noncommissioned officer in charge. “We have to think outside of the box for solutions in repairing tools, so our Airmen learn not to be narrow-minded.”

After finishing the checklist, the engine is taken to the Test Cell section. If it passes the tests, Quality Assurance gives it a final inspection. If the inspection determines the engine is working properly, it’s stored and maintained in the reserve stockpile until it’s swapped for another jet engine needing inspection.

Together the Propulsion with Engine Management flights complete the mission by supplying engines to multiple bases in the Pacific, keeping the F-16 Fighting Falcons ready and lethal.

In 2021 the 35th Maintenance Squadron Propulsion Flight repaired 50 engines.

“We’ve had a lot of stuff come in, especially since we have to be a CIRF for multiple bases. It’s fun though it keeps you busy,” said A1C Deven Pettengill, 35th MXS aerospace propulsion journeyman. “I’m currently in JEIM, and that’s basically the whole engine except for the exhaust and augmenter system. There are some other guys who have worked in accessories more than me, so they have more experience. We all kind of share the knowledge and help each other out.”