Robins’ Plastic and Composite Shop makes repairs to aircraft for sustainment mission

  • Published
  • By Joseph Mather
  • Robins Public Affairs

Many do not realize Air Force aircraft have a variety of composite, plastic and fiberglass parts that need to be maintained or replaced from time to time.

The 573rd Maintenance Squadron Plastic and Composite Shop, part of the Warner Robins Air Logistics Complex at Robins Air Force Base, Georgia, ensures those assets and parts are available for the Air Force’s sustainment mission.

Luke Rowland, Plastic and Composite Shop supervisor, said his team provides maintenance support to major weapon systems through major repair, manufacturing, as well as component and special process repair.

“The mechanics in this shop have extensive knowledge of the characteristics and properties of a variety of advanced composite materials, adhesives and honeycomb core,” he said.

The plastic and composite workers take this knowledge and apply those skill to the programmed depot maintenance process.

“We do minor and major repair and overhaul on all radomes, C-130 aircraft spinners, trailing edges and other miscellaneous parts,” he said. “Anything that has to do with fiberglass, composite or plastic, this team can do it.”

The plastic shop repairs, modifies, and fabricates many types of components and assemblies by using advanced composite materials, such as pre-impregnated poly-quartz cloth, pre-impregnated fiberglass cloth, and carbon composite materials.

 “Mechanics here have the ability to examine aircraft composite and structures to locate delamination, cracks, breaks, holes, bulges and dents,” said Rowland. “Once they determine the type and extent of repairs needed to restore original strength, the mechanic can make repairs by manufacturing and repairing new parts.”

Rowland said the mechanics can make repairs using a variety of techniques, such as reinforcing, patching, or replacing defective parts, as well as applying film adhesives and sealants.

 “We can also form and shape a variety of advanced structural core materials,” he said. “Our plastic and composite workers do this with materials such as structural core panels, aluminum honeycomb core, phenolic honeycomb core and can work them into multiple contours or irregular curves and planes to conform to inner and outer skin surfaces.”

Rowland said the shop repairs and overhauls more than 100 radomes annually.

“A majority of the radomes we work on are F-15 and C-130 aircraft radomes,” he said. “We also average repairing more than 200 C-130 aircraft assets including spinners, afterbodies and brackets, along with other routed and maintenance items subject to repair assets.”

The plastic and composite mechanics work must to be accurate, said Rowland.

“The precision that goes into these radomes and other assets has to be spot on in order for aircraft to be able to do what they need to do,” he said. “It’s up to us to make sure that aircraft gets a good quality, serviceable asset, so we take extra pride in what we do to be able to support the war-fighting mission.”

Rowland said a robotic system is being installed in the Plastics and Composite Shop.

“The robotic arm will be capable of sanding, locating damage, and removing damage for aircraft radomes,” he said. “Robins is investing in the future of this shop and the capabilities that these robots have will make us more efficient with our day-to-day processes, and hopefully bring in more workload.”

Rowland said his shop’s mechanics are extraordinary.

“We are the only team on Robins that does what we do,” he said. “This team is production-focused and each person in this shop is crucial to our overall mission.”