PENSACOLA, Florida – They are the Navy’s unsung heroes: the men and women chosen to work on the mechanical aspects of the fleet. They train at the Naval Air Technical Training Center.
As Petty Officer First Class Pawel Mikolakjewski said, aviation structural mechanics are responsible for 80 percent of the plane, and some of the repairs those sailors make will stand true for 30 years. They have to be precise, as much more hangs in the balance than an instructor’s reprimand.
“So many lives are in their hands. The pilots get on the aircraft, and they hope to come back to their families. These guys make sure that they do,” said Mikolakjewski.
“It’s a big responsibility. I think that we do have a lot at stake, messing something up, so we have to do everything to the T,” said student Moies Ochoa.
Wednesday, students worked on a simulated wing assembly. When they finished, instructors give them new repairs to make.
“All of the structure is ours. All of the hydraulics are ours, and after that, all that’s left is engine and electronics,” Mikolakjewski said.
FOX10 News caught up to those handling some of the other 20 percent of the aircraft. Aviation machinist mates work on F-18 engine components to practice for their days aboard the ship.
“During their six-week training here, they go through aviation physics and theory, as well as all the major sections and components of the engine, preparing them for what they’re going to be doing on the fleet,” said Petty Officer First Class Russell Lloyed, an instructor at the training center.
“It’s like every good race team needs a good pit crew. We maintain and make sure that the pilots can complete their missions and support the troops on the ground. Without us, the planes don’t fly,” said student Andrew Strillchuk.
F-18 engines put out 18,000 pounds of thrust per square inch. That’s the equivalent of putting a Corvette engine on a go-cart.
The sailors go through at least six weeks of training at the Naval Air Technical Training Center on Naval Air Station Pensacola.
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