Airmen Keep F-16 Fighting Falcons Rolling

SHAW AIR FORCE BASE, S.C. --

Tucked away inside Hangar 1200 here, a small group of airmen work around-the-clock on the equipment that literally keeps the F-16CM Fighting Falcon rolling.

This cluster of airmen, assigned to the 20th Equipment Maintenance Squadron wheel and tire flight, perform various types of maintenance on the wheel and tire infrastructure of Shaw’s 79 F-16s.

“An average week we will receive 10 to 15 wheels.” said Air Force Airman 1st Class Alexis Barrera, a 20th EMS wheel and tire team member.

The F-16 has two types of wheels: the main wheels, located about mid-way along the plane’s undercarriage, and the nose wheel.

“Each wheel serves its own purpose,” said Air Force Airman 1st Class William Miller, a 20th EMS wheel and tire team member. “The main, which are the back wheels, will absorb the brunt of the force when landing. The nose will serve as a supporter and will not take as much of the force.”

Keeping the Wheels Turning

Both types of wheels require different forms of maintenance to ensure they can function to the best of their ability.

“We need to ensure that all the wheels and tires are up-to-date and in regulations,” Miller said. “If these pieces of equipment are not properly maintained, the possibility of an aircraft having an unsafe landing will increase.”

Equipment such as the F-16 bead breaker and the tire inflation safety guard allow these airmen to perform necessary maintenance on the aircraft wheels and tires.

The bead breaker uses hydraulic pressure to disassemble and assemble a tire from its rim, allowing airmen to replace or inspect inbound and outbound tires. The tire inflation safety guard, otherwise known as “the cage,” allows the airmen to safely inflate and deflate the tires while monitoring pressure gauges in the machine.

“These pieces of equipment aid us in the assembly, disassembly, cleaning and repair of the wheels,” Barrera said. “Without these machines, our mission here would be hindered.”

By keeping the wheels turning, these airmen support the 20th Fighter Wing mission by ensuring the safety of the pilots and the F-16s they maneuver. With every landing and take-off, these airmen leave their mark on the wing -- and the pavement below.