Revolutionizing Air Force Maintenance with 3D Printed Aircraft Parts: A Discussion from


Travis Air Force Base in California has recently paved the way in the field of aircraft maintenance by developing a 3D printed panel for the floor of the C-17 Globemaster III. This new panel stands as a replacement for a part that is no longer in use, showing the effective use of 3D printing technology in aerospace engineering. This pioneering venture was spearheaded by U.S. Air Force Staff Sergeant Evan LeClair, of the 860th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron, along with the assistance of the 60th Maintenance Squadron’s aircraft metals technology team.

Master Sergeant March Tighe, a member of the 60th Squadron, has stressed on the difficulty in incorporating 3D printed parts into the C-17, a feat that has earlier been accomplished for the C-5 aircraft. This process required the contributions of various engineers and necessitated cooperation with multiple organizations, such as the C-17 System Program Office, Advanced Manufacturing Programs Office, Boeing, and the Air Mobility Command C-17 Weapons System manager.

This accomplishment isn’t just milestone in the technical aspect, but also signifies a strategic progression in aircraft maintenance. It puts forth the practicality of employing additive manufacturing in the pursuit of preserving the lifespan of aircraft. The metals technology unit at Travis AFB, now renowned for their ability to create polymer parts, is capable of reverse engineering and making parts that are no longer available, thus managing to address the frailties in original components.

The 60th MXS aircraft metals technology section has received recognition as a Centralized Air Force Manufacturing Center, suggesting more advancements in manufacturing technology and more expansive support within the Department of Defense. This change indicates increased dependence on additive manufacturing for military aircraft maintenance, providing a preview into future opportunities in aerospace engineering and defense logistics.


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