By Airman 1st Class Andrew Kobialka, 366th Fighter Wing Public Affairs
/ Published September 13, 2019
Chilean airmen practice blade blending, Aug. 26, 2019, at Cerro Moreno Air Base, Chile. U.S. Airmen trained and certified 15 Chilean airmen to perform repairs on F100-Pratt and Whitney-W220 jet engine fan blades. (U.S. Air Force courtsey photo)
U.S. Air Force Airmen and Chilean airmen train together Aug. 26, 2019, at Cerro Moreno Air Base, Chile. The U.S. Airmen trained and certified 15 Chilean airmen on how to perform repairs on F100-Pratt and Whitney-W220 jet engine fan blades. (U.S. Air Force courtesy photo)
When nations clash, a strong partnership can mean the difference between victory or defeat. That’s why the U.S. Air Force actively prioritizes strengthening our relationships. Simply put, we are stronger together.
Chile is one of the United States’ most well-established partners.
Tech. Sgt. Ian Messer and Tech. Sgt. Edgar Ayala, both 366th Maintenance Group aerospace propulsion craftsmen at Mountain Home Air Force Base, Idaho, recently spent a month at Cerro Moreno Air Base in Antofagasta, Chile. Their mission was to train the Chilean airmen to save money, time and manpower through hands-on training on jet engine fan blade repairs for the F100-Pratt and Whitney-W-220 jet engines.
“They were great hosts,” Ayala said. “They treated us like one of their own. They invited us to dinner and made us feel very welcome.”
Once settled in, Messer and Ayala began training the Chilean airmen through a combination of classroom and hands-on sessions.
“We offered these Airmen their first official training on these repairs,” Messer said. “They were so eager to learn and improve that they were performing to standard within days.”
These repairs focus on damages to the fans on the jet engine. Several level fans compress air and help generate 25,000 pounds of thrust.
This amount of thrust can cause wear and tear that requires repairs. However, if the repairs are not performed correctly, it could cause stress fractures or cracks that would keep a fighter jet from taking off. At that point, it becomes a combat readiness liability.
Ayala explained that when they first arrived the Chilean airmen would sometimes replace an entire fan that could have been repaired.
“Replacing an engine fan takes seven days of labor, multiple airmen and has an initial line item cost of about $100,000,” Messer said. “An average repair only takes three hours.”
By the end of the month, 160 training hours were achieved and 15 Chilean airmen were certified to perform these repairs.
“Now, the certified airmen have begun to pass on what they have learned to other airmen in their shop,” Messer said. “It feels good to know that the training will continue to be valuable for the next generation.”
Training like this ensures U.S. partners and allies are capable and efficient at preventative maintenance. This helps build trust among nations and enhances the overall readiness of the combined forces.
“They were great mechanics and caught on quickly,” Ayala said. “And they became good friends that still message me questions and check in on us.”
Messer and Ayala’s time with the 5th Air Brigade increased the unit’s efficiency with time, money and manpower, which has directly strengthened Chilean air power. The trust built during this trip improved U.S. Air Force and Chilean Air Force interoperability for future missions.
“When we came back to Mountain Home (AFB), people asked about the fun things we saw and experienced on our off time,” Messer said. “I kept telling them that wasn’t the important part. What mattered to us was teaching others, helping refine their skill set, and building those relationships.”