Attention to detail earn Airmen 'Safety Salutes'

CANNON AIR FORCE BASE, N.M. -- Pilots are trained and prepared for it, but none of them want to ever use that training. Ejecting from a high-speed F-16 can not only be frightening, but deadly, too.
Thankfully for Cannon pilots, they have the trained expertise of the 27th Maintenance Group to ensure they are flying in the safest jets possible. Five 27 MXG Airmen received safety salutes from the 27th Fighter Wing commander, Col. Scott West, for just that.
Staff Sgts. Bryan Jones and Robert Soto, Senior Airmen Johnny Brown and Janelle Delacruz, and Airman 1st Class Sherrika Reed demonstrated their attention to detail and trumped the mishap chain-of-events while performing a routine F-16 post-flight inspection.
Sergeant Soto, a crew chief with the 27th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron, discovered a quarter inch of metal chips on an interior section of the jet's engine. Following procedure, he took an oil sample and the engine section to Non-Destructive Inspections (NDI) for examination.
Airman Reed, an NDI technician with the 27th Equipment Maintenance Squadron, tested the oil sample and came up with no contaminants, but the metal chips were like none that she had ever seen, so she acquired the opinion of her supervisor, Airman Delacruz. The two Airmen prepared the engine section for analysis.
The scan revealed a significant amount of hostile material, along with #4 bearing material. Airman Delacruz began the proper notification procedures. Despite the test findings, engine technicians were skeptical about the results of the engine analysis because #4 bearing material would not normally be found anywhere inside of the engine. The engine representative even suggested that the testing equipment must be malfunctioning.
To verify the test results, Tech. Sgt. Luis Colon, NDI section chief, recalibrated the testing equipment and ran the sample again. The scan produced the same results. The equipment was definitely not malfunctioning. This information was relayed to Sergeant Soto on the flightline.
The flightline crew referenced F-16 technical orders, which required them to perform an isolated engine run. However, from the large amount of debris and test results, the inspection Airmen knew there was a major engine problem. Despite the written guidance and with the approval of senior maintenance officials, they opted to remove the engine from the aircraft for troubleshooting.
During the engine teardown and bearing removal, technicians found the bearings uneven wear caused it to ride on the fan rotor shaft. This produced the large amount of metal chips.
Engine maintenance Airmen determined that if the engine had been operated just one more time, it could have been its last. If that had been in flight, it could have spelled disaster for the pilot.
Together, this crew of 27th MXG Airmen may have saved the Air Force $30 million in warfighting capabilities and perhaps a pilot's life.
For these actions, in addition to receiving a 27th FW Safety Salute, they have been nominated for an Air Combat Command Unit Safety Award for Distinction.