At Luke Air Force Base, precision is key to every mission — not only for Airmen but also for the equipment they use.
It is the job of the precision measurement equipment laboratory Airmen to ensure various types of measurement tools and equipment work correctly, whether used on the tire of a fighter jet or to weigh Airmen before their fitness test.
“In PMEL we calibrate anything that makes a quantifiable measurement, including the areas of fuel flow, air flow, pressure, torque, force and voltage,” said. Tech. Sgt. Douglas Locke, 56th Component Maintenance Squadron test measurement and diagnostic equipment assistant flight chief.
PMEL is broken down into three primary sections.
The physical dimensional section does physics-type measurements including linear, pressure, force, torque and optics.
“In Phys-D some of the things we calibrate include the scales the traffic management office uses to weigh pallets for cargo planes,” said Senior Master Sgt. Timothy Sheldon, 56th CMS TMDE flight chief.
“It’s essential to the mission because if the scales aren’t calibrated correctly, the aircraft can be off-balance and potentially crash.”
Some of the more unique items Phys-D works on are aircraft reference fixtures that are used to establish a plane of reference for the aircraft to zero in the weapons, the heads-up display and more, Locke said.
For anything that has to do with voltage, current or electricity there is the direct current and low frequency section.
“Here we calibrate multi-meters which measure voltage and current,” Locke said. “We also calibrate a lot of the base ‘measurement standards’ and equipment for the base including voltage references.”
Lastly, there is the wave-form analysis and signal generation section.
“This section deals with anything that creates a signal or measures a signal,” Sheldon said. “This encompasses oscilloscopes, and spectrum analyzers that measure frequency and voltage. There is also calibration of equipment that measures vibration which is used to diagnose possible issues with F-16 fighter jet engines.”
To guarantee mission success, PMEL has many tools or “standards” they use to make sure everything is calibrated precisely.
“Our standards are traceable back to national references and are at least four times more accurate than our customer’s equipment,” Sheldon said. “We are basically comparing the customer’s equipment to our ‘standard’ when calibrating them.”
Although only a 30 Airmen and civilian team, PMEL successfully completes 10,200 maintenance actions per year and in total, supports about 6,700 pieces of equipment at Luke while serving the Army and Airmen at the Phoenix Sky Harbor Air National Guard base.
“We have 160 customers throughout the Air Education and Training Command,” Locke said. “We are also the AETC’s regional ‘go-to’ for calibrating oxygen equipment.”
PMEL is vital to the Air Force mission.
“Their job is important because, for example, if an Airman uses an uncalibrated pressure gauge on a jet’s tire it can potentially explode if the tire pressure isn’t reading correctly,” Locke said. “We can’t have precision airstrikes without precision measurement.”