USS ENTERPRISE, At Sea — A large grey mechanical tail moves from left to right, while various metal flaps raise and lower like a bird preparing for flight. An F/A-18 Hornet’s twin engines roar to life before launching out over the sea.
Marine Fighter Attack Squadron 251 airframes division ensures each of the panels and fasteners are properly prepared to soar off the flight deck of the USS Enterprise.
The USS Enterprise is currently embarked on its final journey before being decommissioned after more than 50 years of service.
“Our responsibility to maintain the aircraft can range from everything that deals with its structure, hydraulic systems, flight controls, landing gear and arresting gear,” said Cpl. James Miller, a VMFA-251 airframes quality assurance representative. “Being on the carrier brings on many new responsibilities such as the arresting hook to catch the trap while landing.
“This is good because we get to experience so much more while on an aircraft carrier,” continued Miller, a native of Rolling Meadows, Ill.
The squadron is currently supporting maritime security operations and Operation Enduring Freedom while deployed on the aircraft carrier. In the event of an electrical malfunction during a mission, pilots rely on the aircraft’s ability to operate and maneuver like a vehicle without power steering.
This function relies on airframe Marine performing proper maintenance on the aircraft’s pneumatics, technology used to transfer various gases, and panels used to control the aircraft speed and orientation.
“This job is great because I love working with my hands and getting dirty,” said Cpl. Andrew Mitkowski, VMFA-251 airframe collateral duty inspector. “Our work orders can take anywhere from a few minutes to days of constant maintenance.”
Even though the division does not work on issues such as engine repair, they must assist in the installment of engines due to panels, brackets and housings that have to be moved.
“There is no better place to learn about your job than a deployed environment,” said Mitkowski, a native of Stroudsburg, Pa.
Mission success and pilots’ lives are entrusted on the work of airframes division Marines every day, making sure there is never a feather out of place on these birds of prey out at sea.