Maintaining flight equipment for a fifth generation fighter aircraft requires precision and skill. Providing F-35 Lightning II pilots with the proper gear is essential for 61st Fighter Squadron Airmen at Luke Air Force Base, Ariz.
“My job is to make sure our pilots can do their mission,” said Airman 1st Class Jake Vincent, 61st FS aircrew flight equipment journeyman. We inspect and maintain the helmet, jacket, mask, and G-suits for the pilots.”
Performing checks on flight equipment before, during and after their flight is essential.
“First we take the helmets out of the bag and perform the pre-flight inspections ensuring the visors are intact,” Vincent said. “We also inspect the G-suits for any holes, tears and rips and make sure the hook blade knife is attached to the pocket.” Our top priority is the pilot’s safety.”
The job doesn’t stop as AFE Airmen also perform 30, 105, and 120 day inspections.
“The 30-day inspection process is an in depth look at the equipment and a thorough cleaning of the mask and helmet,” Vincent said. “During the 105-day inspections we inflate the G-suite and ensure that it retains air properly. On the 120-day inspections we have the pilots put on their suits to check their anti-suffocation valve to ensure they fit correctly. When they land, we do a post-flight check where we clean the helmet and make sure the tackings are intact.”
Ensuring pilots fly safely takes both skill in maintaining flight equipment and teamwork.
“Without the help of other shops it would be difficult to maintain every piece of equipment,” said Tech. Sgt. Bryan Dickson, 61st FS aircrew flight equipment NCO in charge. “There’s a lot of responsibility that goes into maintaining our equipment, because the F-35’s flight equipment is much more advanced in comparison to say the F-16 Fighting Falcon.”
Due to their continued excellence, the 56th Operations Support Squadron AFE shop has distinguished themselves and was awarded the 2016 Air Education and Training Command Outstanding AFE Large Program of the year award.
“This is probably the best flight I’ve worked with in my 16-year career and being able to take the lead on it is a privilege,” said Master Sgt. Robert Nelson, 56th OSS AFE quality assurance acting superintendent and 2016 AETC AFE Senior NCO of the year. The large program is the award I take the most pride in, and it’s a huge accomplishment for me and the rest of the Airmen at the shop.”
For AFE Airmen, maintaining the future of airpower is key to maintaining the Air Force mission.
“We’re very big on teamwork here, and I can always rely on others to have my back,” Vincent said. “The greatest part of my job is taking care of the pilot’s gear and knowing they are taken care of and able to walk away if the aircraft malfunctions and they need to eject safely.”