JOINT BASE LANGLEY-EUSTIS, Va. –
In the proverb “For want of a nail,” a single nail missing eventually cost an army a war, symbolizing how not correcting a small issue can eventually lead to a catastrophe.
The 1st Aircraft Maintenance Squadron's wash rack simple act of keeping the F-22 Raptor clean, in turn keeps it safe, combat capable and ready to answer the nation's call.
“(The wash) is one of the basic tasks we use to keep the fleet healthy, after I learned to do launch and recovery I learned how to do a wash,” said U.S. Air Force Senior Airman Andrew Gugel, 1st AMXS, 27th Aircraft Maintenance Unit, F-22 Raptor assistant dedicated crew chief. “If the jet's not clean than it's going to break and there are going to be issues that arise. Issues costs man, flight and training hours.”
The F-22 wash process is imperative to its maintenance and mission readiness, as it is a scheduled inspection. If the aircraft isn't washed, it would be considered non-flyable, which costs lost sorties and money.
According to Gugel, the wash process starts with taping the jet, ensuring it's properly sealed so water doesn’t damage the aircraft. After the tape is placed, the wash begins to clean dirt and grime off the wheels, main body of the aircraft and the canopy so the pilot has clear vision. Last, the landing gear is inspected and lubricated to make sure it’s in good working order.
Although inspections are regularly scheduled, a wash can be scheduled at any time, so if the landing gear is dirty and noticed by the crew chief, it can be put on the schedule earlier.
“Jets are normally washed every 30 days, but can be washed sooner if necessary to prevent damage to the aircraft,” said U.S. Air Force Staff Sgt. William Van, 192nd Aircraft Maintenance Squadron crew chief and wash supervisor. “With a clean aircraft, crew chief or pilots are able to see if parts in the aircraft breaks.”
For Van and the other crew chiefs who man the wash rack, their priority is to keep the jets clean on the ground and so the pilots are safe in the sky.