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VMFA-251 airframe division keeps Hornets flying at sea

By Cpl. Rubin Tan | | July 13, 2012

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, Penn.

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.