Jet Engine Mechanic

Upon graduation from Basic Training, I was sent to Chanute AFB in Rantoul, Illinois for technical school. Chanute is about one hour south of Chicago and just north of Champaign, IL (where the University of Illinois is). I don't have a lot of memories of this time, but it was to be the first step in becoming a jet engine mechanic. I was to train on a Pratt & Whitney powerplant, learning jet engine fundamentals and how to safety wire (basically wiring two screws so that they can not loosen).

Here are some stories that I happened to remember after all these years:

Fire Drill

One night the fire alarm went off, which is not the funny part. What was funny was the way some of the girls exited the building, still in the towels from the shower. Not sure if it was a real fire drill or someone knowing the girls would just grab a towel and go outside.


It was October when I got to Chanute AFB and being from Wisconsin, it was still fairly moderate temperatures. However, the people from the southern states were so cold, they would be dressed in there winter issue parkas, me in a t-shirt.

Safety Wire

Here is a definition of safety wiring from

Safety Wire Installation is a fairly simple task, but needs to be done properly to ensure proper security for the fastener in question. First, a length of wire is cut off of a spool. The length of the piece of wire to be used is determined by the distance from the location where the fastener to be secured is to be attached to another fixed location, which will act as an anchoring point for the safety wire. The wire should be cut to be slightly longer than twice that distance. The next step is to take the removable fastener such as a bolt, drill a hole through an accessible part of it, fasten it in the desired location, and then thread one end of the safety wire through the hole while taking the other end around the outside of the hole in the same direction as the end that is going through the hole. The wire is then pulled taut. Using Safety Wire Pliers or the twisting tool of choice, the wire is then twisted at the optimal number of twists per inch. The wire is then released from the tool, and the two loose ends should be adjacent to each other at this stage. One of those ends is then threaded through some anchor point on the object to which the fastener being secured is attached. The other end of the wire is then threaded around the anchor point, and on the opposite side of the anchor point the twisting process is repeated. When finished, the loose end is cut off with a pair of diagonal cutters or wire cutters (many Safety Wire Pliers have a wire cutting feature), such that enough twists are left to prevent the wire from unravelling. The remaining end can have a sharp edge from being cut, so technicians will often bend it down against another hard surface to prevent it from damaging other components, such as electrical wiring insulation, or from causing injury to future technicians working in the area.

Safety Wiring Examples


For the graduation picture (see below), we had the option of either standing inside of a large jet engine or out by a F-4 Phantom. While I would eventually be working on the General Electric J79 (which is used in the F-4 Phantom II), I did vote to have it taken inside the front of the jet engine. By vote, I lost and still wish it would have been in the engine as that would have been a very cool picture.