Let the sparks fly

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(U.S. Air Force photo/Staff Sgt. Jason McCasland) Senior Airman Tony Guinn, 2nd Maintenance Squadron aircraft metals technology journeyman, tungsten inert gas, or TIG, welds an aluminum tube mounted on a 45 degree fixture on Barksdale Air Force Base.

2nd MXS welder certification

Story by Staff Sgt. Jason McCasland, 2nd Bomb Wing Public Affairs

BARKSDALE AIR FORCE BASE — Aircraft, ground equipment and jet engines all have one thing in common – metal, which over time can wear out or break. Repairing these items takes skill, precision and certifications.

Airmen from the 2nd Maintenance Squadron Structural Maintenance shop fuse metal together with gas, heat and electricity. By using this combination and welding the over-stressed metal, they are able to salvage and repair equipment worth millions.

“As welders we are required to certify on each type of metal, weld and style every five years,” said Senior Airman Tony Guinn, 2nd MXS aircraft metals technology journeyman. “The certification proves we are able to do our job and the feedback from the weld inspection shows us how we can improve our skills. Using this certification we are also able to weld on aircraft engines, which can save the Air Force more than $1.3 million dollars in an engine replacement.”

The certification process doesn’t begin with welding two aluminum tubes together. There are certain criteria for each welder to complete before and during the weld.

“Each person performing the certification has to first clean up both pieces before they are welded,” said Master Sgt. Anthony Fennell, 2nd MXS section chief. “Although they clean and remove burrs from the pipes, they cannot actually change the outside diameter of the pipes. Another thing the certification requires is for the pieces to be mounted on a stand angled at 45 degrees. This is one of the hardest angles for our welders to work with; while on the stand, the pieces cannot be removed or repositioned.”

The certification process doesn’t stop after the weld is complete. Using specialized skills, Airmen from the 2nd MXS Non-Destructive Inspection shop are responsible for certifying welders.

“After the welder brings us the piece to be certified, we X-ray it, develop the film and finally inspect the film to ensure everything is as it should be,” said Staff Sgt. Josh Martinez, 2nd MXS NDI NCO in-charge. “After the weld has been certified, we sign off the welder’s certification paperwork, and they retain that credential for five years. We also keep the film as proof of the work done for the certification. If there wasn’t an NDI, we would have to send the welded part to an off installation inspection place.”

The whole certification can take a few days to complete due to the different offices involved. The return not only saves time, it also saves money and ultimately lives.

“We take every weld certification very seriously,” said Martinez. “Our shop is responsible for making sure Air Force assets are protected. If the welders don’t complete all the criteria needed to be certified, then our aircraft and equipment could fail because of an improperly welded joint.”

Having on site welders helps reduce aircraft down times, and reduces the cost of maintaining both aircraft and ground equipment.

“We are also able to repair equipment maintainers use to maintain the aircraft. This keeps us from having to order new equipment such as air stairs, engine stands and other equipment,” said Guinn.

Aircrew can fly safe knowing each weld metals technology Airmen make, are certified to provide high quality repairs on aircraft, ground equipment and jet engines.