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For jet engine mechanic, tenacity is key

  • Published
  • By Tech. Sgt. Dan Heaton
  • 127th Wing

Maybe not a word commonly assigned with serving as an engine mechanic, but then again, these are no common engines.

"You never know what any day on the job is going to throw at you," said Tech. Sgt. Richard Coleman, an aerospace propulsion specialist with the 127th Maintenance Squadron at Selfridge Air National Guard Base. "So you have to have the tenacity to work through a problem and find the solution."

Coleman's job is more commonly referred to as a jet engine mechanic. He and his fellow Airmen in the 127th MXS's propulsion shop work on General Electric TF34-GE-100 turbofan engines, the big beasts that generate some 9,000 pounds of thrust each to power the Air Force's A-10 Thunderbolt II attack aircraft.

"We do work on a lot of routine maintenance, but just when you think you've seen it all, there's something different staring at you," Coleman said.

During the regularly scheduled drill weekend for the Michigan Air National Guard's 127th Wing at Selfridge, Coleman and Tech. Sgt. Andrew Rudolph spent much of the day preparing an A-10 engine to be shipped to the depot for a higher-level maintenance inspection. The local Airmen do the minor repairs and stay on top of preventive maintenance to keep the engines finely-tuned. Higher level work is sent to an Air Force maintenance depot to allow the local engine mechanics to spend their time on the numerous small things that keep an engine running.

To ship the engine, not only are some key parts of the engine wrapped in padding, the entire assembly is wrapped in a special material that not only contains any fluids inside the engine, but also eliminates any static electricity or other spark sources that are dangerous around an engine that operates on jet fuel.

Rudolph, who has been working as a propulsion specialist for about 15 years, said his work with the 127th Wing fulfills two of his interests.

"Number one, I like being a mechanic, getting in here and working with my hands and my head," he said. "And I love serving my country. I'm from a military family, so this was a natural fit for me."