NHRA receives first-hand look into life of maintainer

0
94
Brig. Gen. Robert Novotny, 57th Wing Commander, laughs with Bob Tasca III, National Hot Rod Association funny car racer, as he tries to fit into Tasca’s funny car seat during the NHRA Nationals at the Las Vegas Motor Speedway, Nev., Nov. 1, 2019. Tasca and his team demonstrated his funny car’s capabilities to Novotny. (Air Force photograph by Airman 1st Class Bailee A. Darbasie)

Maintainers assigned to the 757th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron Eagle Aircraft Maintenance Unit at Nellis Air Force Base, Nev., were given the opportunity to showcase their abilities to National Hot Rod Association vehicle maintainers.

From the initial greetings, to the final system flight control inspections, the vehicle maintainers shadowed the tactical aircraft maintainers and experienced an F-15D Eagle fighter jet takeoff.

“We gave each vehicle crew member a firsthand look into the life of a crew chief,” said Airman 1st Class Janessa Ems, tactical aircraft maintainer assigned to the 757th AMXS Eagle AMU. “We brought them out to the flight line and gave them a headset to get the full Nellis maintainer experience.”

Bob Tasca III, National Hot Rod Association (NHRA) funny car racer, prepares to race his vehicle during the NHRA Nationals at the Las Vegas Motor Speedway, Nev., Nov. 1, 2019. Tasca invited Brig. Gen. Robert Novotny, 57th Wing Commander, and his aircraft maintenance crew to join him at the event. Novotny and the Airmen were able to talk with Tasca and get an up-close look at his funny car’s capabilities. (Air Force photograph by Airman 1st Class Bailee A. Darbasie)

Once the air crew approached, the crew chiefs and maintainers gave a preflight brief then removed the covers and set up the seats for the pilots. Once the pilots entered the aircraft, secondary checks were conducted. After all the maintenance was done the crew chiefs prepared the pilot and air crew for takeoff.

Whether it’s a race car or a high-performance aircraft, performing the checks is an important step for both missions. The safety of the driver and pilots rely heavily on the attention to detail of their crew chiefs and maintenance team.

“The one thing that’s the same is no pilot on the planet is going to get in that airplane, and no race car driver is going to get in a race car unless they have complete confidence in the team,” said Bob Tasca III, National Hot Rod Association race car driver.

The roles and responsibilities between both sets of maintainers are very similar. They range from maintenance duties to oil and tire servicing and ensuring the vehicle is mechanically sound prior to operations.

Tactical Aircraft Maintainers assigned to the 757th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron Eagle Aircraft Maintenance Unit watch as a National Hot Rod Association funny car maintenance team service a vehicle during the NHRA Nationals at the Las Vegas Motor Speedway, Nev., Nov. 1, 2019. Funny Cars can run in the 3.8-second range and are capable of speeds in excess of 330 mph. (Air Force photograph by
Airman 1st Class Bailee A. A. Darbasie)

Although vehicle maintainers have but mere seconds to get their driver back in the race, the accuracy needed to keep the vehicle running and in shape is still crucial. Most members can change all tires and make adjustments within 15 seconds. For aircraft maintainers, time is somewhat on their side, however, completing the mission is the main priority which causes them to stay on schedule.

The work environments for both types of maintainers can be a challenge. The potential for fires and hazardous gases are some obstacles needed to be overcome in order to finish the job.

“It takes a team to get the plane in the air or to get a race car on the track,” said Tasca. “You can’t think about anything but the task at hand in order to perform at the level you need to win.”

Whether it’s a pilot or driver, aircraft or race car, maintainers are the last ones to ensure everything is safe and functioning prior to take off. Having a reliable team behind any racecar driver or pilot is a necessity in order to complete the task at hand.

“To showcase our job to an outside source is a great opportunity,” said Ems. “We were able to connect with the other maintainers and show why we both are important for our missions to be accomplished.

Bob Tasca III, National Hot Rod Association funny car racer, prepares to race a qualifying match during the NHRA Nationals at the Las Vegas Motor Speedway, Nev., Nov. 1, 2019. Tasca was the first Ford driver to break the three second sound barrier in funny car racing. (Air Force photograph by
Airman 1st Class Bailee A. Darbasie)