JOINT BASE SAN ANTONIO, Texas —
From troubleshooting to final fitting, the 12th Maintenance Group’s metals technology shop fabricates and custom-makes the metal components critical to the functioning of the T-1A, T-6C and T-38C aircraft.
“There’s a lot of things that go on behind the scenes that nobody gets to see, whether it’s our nondestructive inspection folks looking for discrepancies or cracks that nobody else is going to see other than with an X-ray,” said Darryl Rios-Maldonado, 12th MXG Fabrication Branch chief. “Our corrosion guys are fantastic, they’re the ones that make the aircraft look pretty when they’re flying around.”
The 12th MXG executes more than 40,000 flight hours annually supporting six training operations squadrons. The agency is responsible for the overall fleet health of 187 aircraft assigned at both Joint Base San Antonio-Randolph and Naval Air Station Pensacola, Florida. The 12th MXG provides on-equipment and off-equipment maintenance support for T-1A, T-6C and T-38C aircraft.
“If an aircraft encounters a bird strike, that can destroy so many parts of the aircraft, the skin and the structure underneath the skin,” Rios-Maldonado said. “So we basically have to take all the old parts out and replace them with new ones. We also manufacture parts to rebuild the aircraft to better than factory conditions.”
No matter what piece needs to be fabricated or fixed, the metals technology shop will get it done.
“I think just knowing what goes on inside the airframe and knowing all the different hands that touch it to make it fly, that’s what amazes me, and how everyone can make this thing work so well, almost like a big concert,” Rios-Maldonado said. “We’re all working a different instrument but our end goal is to give a 100 percent product to put up in the air to train our pilots.”
With lives in their hands, the metals technology shop’s number one goal is to get pilots trained and ready for the war fight.
“There has to be 100 percent trust with everything that we do because lives are in our hands, so a lot of trust has to go into it,” Rios-Maldonado said. “We don’t want any distrust from anybody; otherwise we wouldn’t be able to operate.”
It’s been said that “there’s no air power without ground power.”
“Everybody sees the Chuck Yeagers flying their jets and when they come back everybody’s hooting and hollering, but the mechanic’s off to the side getting ready to put fuel in, check the oil, put air in the tires and just get the mission done,” Rios-Maldonado said. “The mechanics are the ones that make this happen.”
The favorite part of Rios-Maldonado’s job is that every day is different.
“There’s something different every day,” he said. “Nothing is ever the same.”