Before returning to flight operations, Team Edwards welcomed the new year with the annual Back in the Saddle briefing Jan. 7, focusing on safety, teamwork and mishap prevention.
After spending time with friends and families during the holiday season, Back in the Saddle has helped the Edwards community shift their focus back to safely and effectively accomplishing the mission of flight test for nearly 20 years.
“We at Edwards do not do normal operations, we conduct flight test and what we do is actually very dangerous. If you let go for just a few moments you can end up killing somebody. Back in the Saddle gets everyone back into that mode of thinking, that what we’re doing is dangerous and we better pay attention to what we’re doing,” said Bill Koukourikos, 412th Test Wing Safety Office deputy chief.
“We all love to have fun with our families, we need that time and we’ve had that time now. Now that we’ve had the two or three weeks of spending time with our families and getting reacquainted with our kids, spouses, aunts and uncles – it’s time to get back to work,” he continued.
While returning to flight operations is fairly simple for personnel stationed at operational Air Force bases, the Edwards community faces unique challenges as they settle back into the flight test mission.
Unlike in the operational world, the unconventional nature of flight test lacks fixed rhythm to help personnel re-acclimate after holiday downtime.
“It’s not like a normal Air Force base where you come back from vacation and know what’s going to happen and you basically go back into your normal rhythm. That’s why everyone gets the Back in the Saddle brief and there are also safety briefings going on within the units. It gets people thinking about flight test, flight operations and risks so that when they hit the road running, they’re not going into it cold,” said Koukourikos.
Back in the Saddle combines mishap reviews with informational briefings to get useful information out to the workforce. Throughout the briefing, personnel had the opportunity to hear about lessons learned in 2012 from those at Edwards and throughout the Air Force.
“We are trying to reduce risk by giving people good information and have everyone think about what they are up to. There were mishap reviews, taking no kidding accidents with the F-35 and C-17 for example, that occurred in the Air Force and briefing them to the flyers and engineers. This year, we also included informational briefings about hypoxia and the Auto Ground Collision Avoidance System,” said Koukourikos.
It is an important briefing for Edwards personnel, who are given only one day to get spun up before returning to normal flying operations. For the safety of those involved and the success of the mission, it’s important that operations personnel have their head back in the game, ready for the work ahead.
“It’s like when you take a summer vacation and then head back to school; it takes you a week to get spun up. Well, here at Edwards, you don’t have a week – you only get one day,” said Koukourikos.
The Back in the Saddle briefing also helps mitigate risks associated with what is known as the “January Effect,” during which there is an Air Force-wide increase in the frequency of mishaps.
“The Air Force sees a spike in mishaps throughout the month of January and it is our job to prevent that from happening. I’m proud to say that we here at Edwards don’t have a spike in January,” said Koukourikos.
By beginning the year with a focus on safety and mishap prevention, it ensures that the flyers, engineers, maintainers and airfield operations personnel are fully prepared to handle everything from the normal to the unusual as Team Edwards looks ahead to another successful year of flight test in 2013.