Working any job on the flightline can be an arduous task, but scorching heat and thick humidity can easily raise the temperature to triple digits along the long strip of pavement before sunrise.
Extreme heat during summer months is a fact of life for Airmen at Luke Air Force Base, Nellis Air Force Base, Nevada, and Tyndall Air Force Base, Florida, said Chief Master Sgt. Joshua Wiener, 56th Maintenance Group superintendent.
Summertime ambient temperatures commonly reach 110 to 115 degrees at those bases. Add the heat from running aircraft engines and reflective heat from asphalt and concrete, and flight line temperatures can reach 130 degrees, Wiener said.
Chief Master Sgt. Brent Salvadori, 325th Maintenance Group superintendent at Tyndall AFB, devised a way over the past 18 months to keep Airmen comfortable in the heat, without sacrificing mission accomplishment.
The idea originated from the 95th Aircraft Maintenance Unit deployment to Al Dhafra Air Base in southwest Asia, Salvadori said. The AMU was permitted to wear shorts while they were deployed and upon return, Salvadori reached out for the local guidance authorizing Al Dhafra’s shorts to integrate them at home station.
“After review, it was time to roll up my sleeves and get to work,” Salvadori said. “It was a long journey, as with any time you try to change something this drastic. But, when you peel the onion back, our fellow aircraft maintenance contractors and depot civilians have been wearing shorts in the same industrial environment while performing the same maintenance actions. So, why not Airmen?”
“The average day for the maintainers is between 9-10 hours,” Wiener said. “However, not all of the time is spent on the flightline. It depends on the number of launches and recoveries, and the status of the aircraft. But as you can imagine, when it’s 100 to 115 degrees, any time spent crewing and fixing aircraft can be challenging and difficult.”
The change has been a long time coming.
“People have been asking for shorts my entire enlistment,” said Staff Sgt. Kelson Richmond, 310th Aircraft Maintenance Unit, “and, probably many years before I joined. Now that they’re approved, I don’t see myself working one more hot summer day in coveralls.”
The Air Force is not authorizing shorts for all Airmen and is instead leaving the decision up to base commanders, said Capt. Carrie Volpe, an Air Force spokesman from the Pentagon, in a written statement.