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552nd Commodities Maintenance Support Squadron keeps bearings rolling, help keep warfighters flying safely

Bearing Overhaul Shop supervisor Melvin Lovings, left, and Stephen Kingham, look over a bearing assembly in the 552nd Commodities Maintenance Squadron facility located in Bldg. 3001. The 11 employees of the Level I shop identify, clean, inspect and process or condemn bearings coming from a variety of engines, missiles and other aircraft components.  (Air Force photo by Margo Wright)

Bearing Overhaul Shop supervisor Melvin Lovings, left, and Stephen Kingham, look over a bearing assembly in the 552nd Commodities Maintenance Squadron facility located in Bldg. 3001. The 11 employees of the Level I shop identify, clean, inspect and process or condemn bearings coming from a variety of engines, missiles and other aircraft components. (Air Force photo by Margo Wright)

John Burk cleans an F119 #4 bearing inner ring in the cleaning room of the Bearing Shop before sending it through the shop for inspection. (Air Force photo by Margo Wright)

John Burk cleans an F119 #4 bearing inner ring in the cleaning room of the Bearing Shop before sending it through the shop for inspection. (Air Force photo by Margo Wright)

Almost everything that moves has a bearing, with sizes as small as a missile bearing that’s no bigger than a finger tip to an F108 engine bearing that weighs approximately 25 pounds and is 12 inches in diameter.  Bearing Overhaul Shop supervisor Melvin Lovings said shop personnel take pride in producing a quality product. “It doesn’t matter how much an aircraft may cost,” said Mr. Lovings.  “A $50 bearing can bring it down.  A car bearing goes out, the driver can pull over.  A pilot can’t.”  (Air Force photo by Margo Wright)

Almost everything that moves has a bearing, with sizes as small as a missile bearing that’s no bigger than a finger tip to an F108 engine bearing that weighs approximately 25 pounds and is 12 inches in diameter. Bearing Overhaul Shop supervisor Melvin Lovings said shop personnel take pride in producing a quality product. “It doesn’t matter how much an aircraft may cost,” said Mr. Lovings. “A $50 bearing can bring it down. A car bearing goes out, the driver can pull over. A pilot can’t.” (Air Force photo by Margo Wright)

Covered to protect bearings from contaminants in the Bearing Overhaul Shop’s clean room, Kevin Ward checks an F119 inner race bearing for damage, rust or other imperfections.  Mr. Ward runs a ball scribe over the surface and feels any pitting or areas that need further inspection.  Working behind Mr. Ward is Richard Moio.  (Air Force photo by Margo Wright)

Covered to protect bearings from contaminants in the Bearing Overhaul Shop’s clean room, Kevin Ward checks an F119 inner race bearing for damage, rust or other imperfections. Mr. Ward runs a ball scribe over the surface and feels any pitting or areas that need further inspection. Working behind Mr. Ward is Richard Moio. (Air Force photo by Margo Wright)

Todd Taylor works in the shipping room of the Bearing Overhaul Shop, preparing finished bearings for customers.  After cleaning and inspecting, bearings are sealed in bags to protect against the smallest contaminants.  (Air Force photo by Margo Wright)

Todd Taylor works in the shipping room of the Bearing Overhaul Shop, preparing finished bearings for customers. After cleaning and inspecting, bearings are sealed in bags to protect against the smallest contaminants. (Air Force photo by Margo Wright)

TINKER AIR FORCE BASE, Okla. -- Tucked deep within Bldg. 3001 is an 8,000-square foot clean-room facility whose crucial mission is known by few.

The 552nd Commodities Maintenance Support Squadron Bearing Shop performs Level I, or reclamation, overhaul maintenance on bearings for 12 weapons systems and engines. A bearing is a device to allow constrained relative motion between two or more parts, typically rotation or linear movement.

"The bearing shop is an important shop in the depot maintenance overhaul process," said Don Ngo, 552nd CMMXS Bearing Shop engineer. "We provide a critical component for the aircraft. We are the biggest bearing overhaul facility in the Air Force and without us, planes won't fly."

Melvin Lovings, bearing shop supervisor, agreed.

"Without us, there wouldn't be any turnin' and burnin,'" he said, referring to the shop's motto: "We keep them turnin' and burnin'." "The criticality of a bearing is pretty high. Without bearings, Air Force flight missions will definitely be at a standstill."

Approximately 20,000 bearings pass through the shop in a given year, which equates to 80 to 100 bearings per day. Unless deemed a "high priority," bearings are seen on a first-come, first-served basis.

Level I consists of cleaning, inspection, dimensional measurements, and dynamic testing, if required. When bearings arrive in the shop, they demagnetized, cleaned, visually inspected, nondestructive tested, if necessary, and sometimes, repaired, which may include buffering, a cosmetic mend.

While the process is overseen by Mr. Lovings, it is his crew of 11 personnel that do the nitty-gritty work. They are trained to know each bearing's unique size, shape and requirements.

"We don't just spin bearings," Mr. Lovings said. "It's much more complicated."

Once a bearing is overhauled, it is reassembled, tested, preserved, packaged and returned to the customer. The total process turnaround time is less than three days, Mr. Ngo said.

Mr. Lovings said it takes the average bearing staffer five years to become a "bearing overhaul expert." But, the average tenure of a 552nd CMMXS bearing shop technician is a year; many of the personnel, who had a combined 30 years of experience, retired in the past year.

But, Tinker's management isn't worried. They are teaming up with an industry expert to provide additional technical training for Level I and II, or refurbishment, in bearing overhaul and repair processes. The on-going effort will increase the bearing shop's workloads as well as the capability to perform Level II repair.

There are a total of four levels of bearing rework. Levels III and IV are restoration and remanufacturing, respectively.

"We are very competitive and we produce an excellent product," Mr. Ngo said.