Aerospace ground equipment personnel perform a variety of tasks to help keep the world’s greatest Air Force jets in flight.
The F-35A Lightning II AGE section manages more than 700 pieces of equipment — performing basic maintenance, service inspections and delivering the equipment where it’s needed.
Performing maintenance on a unit can take anywhere from 15 minutes to two days, depending on the level of service required, according to Senior Airman Austin Sutton, 56th Equipment Maintenance Squadron AGE journeyman at Luke Air Force Base, Ariz.
“Maintenance on a piece of equipment can be anything as in-depth as replacing an engine to replacing a bolt,” he said.
During a service inspection, AGE personnel thoroughly inspect each item and check for broken or missing pieces, perform fluid changes and change filters.
“Inspections are where we slow it down and take our time to go through the entire unit from top to bottom in accordance with our service log,” Sutton said. “We have to do 100 percent accountability on approximately 700 pieces of equipment.”
Anytime maintenance tasks or inspections are performed on any piece of equipment, it is logged on a Technical Order and servicing logs.
The AGE units also have service pick-up and delivery drivers (SPUDS) who deliver equipment to units on base. When finished with the equipment, the SPUDS drivers return it to the sub pool where all the equipment is kept. There are approximately 10-20 deliveries performed daily.
“Whenever we pick equipment up from the spot or the hangar we have to make sure it’s still good to go back to a jet if that’s what was going to happen,” Sutton said. “We have to check for fuel, fluids and make sure it’s not going to break the next time it’s being used and also make sure everything is there.”
The F-35A AGE section supports the 61st, 62nd, 63rd and 308th Aircraft Maintenance Units while the F-16 Fighting Falcon AGE section supports the 309th, 310th and occasionally the 425th AMUs.
A popular saying in the AGE career field is “There is no air power without ground power.” From inspecting and troubleshooting to making hands-on repairs, AGE maintainers keep the equipment used to work on the aircraft serviceable and ready.
“Every piece of equipment that a crew chief uses to get their jet in the air, we maintain that equipment,” Sutton said. “Without AGE, there pretty much wouldn’t be any maintenance done on aircraft.”