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NEWS | June 25, 2015

Langley AFE Airmen safeguard pilots' lives

By Airman 1st Class Devin Scott Michaels 633rd Air Base Wing Public Affairs

A U.S. Air Force pilot flies over a hazardous region, when suddenly one of the engines explodes without warning. Threats on the ground shot the aircraft and there is no choice but to eject. A chain reaction occurs to incorporate a quick egression from the plane, followed by the deployment of a parachute and the actuation of a survival kit.

Thanks to the Airmen of aircrew flight equipment, another Service member gets to return home and hug his family again.

Aircrew flight equipment Airmen repair, maintain and prepare the gear necessary for air-combat mission success with minimal casualty. The 1st Operations Support Group AFE Airmen at Langley Air Force Base, Virginia, consider their daily routines a matter of life and death--an approach they take to work each day.

"We take what we do very seriously," said Tech. Sgt. Ephraim Stacy, 1st Operations Support Squadron AFE craftsman. "I think our attitude toward the job ensures the safety of pilots in the field."

Stacy explained all AFE Airmen review technical orders while working to ensure mishaps do not occur.

"It's never safe for us to operate according to verbal instruction of how it was done yesterday," said Stacy. "The technical orders that itemize and explain each aspect of what we need to do always change. We can't just go by, 'Well I remember, we did it like this a little while ago,' or 'So-and-so told me it was done like this.' We constantly have to follow direct, written instruction; otherwise a single inconsistency could allow a death to occur where life should have been preserved."

Tech. Sgt. Nicholias Sanders, 94th Fighter Squadron AFE noncommissioned officer in charge, said error cannot exist in the AFE career field, and continual compliance with specific technical orders should protect the lives of pilots now and in the future.
When preparing parachutes and survival equipment, Staff Sgt. Kenneth McBride, 1st OSS AFE noncommissioned officer in charge, said even the shop's indoor climate must remain within a specific range of variables to mitigate the potential for environmental corrosion.

"If the temperature is too warm and humid, it produces condensation and the equipment might mold," said McBride. "If the air is too cool and dry, friction will produce static electricity, which would cause unwanted electrical conduction within the materials."

Parachutes, ejection seats and survival kits are not the only items AFE Airmen prepare for pilots. The Airmen of 1st OSS AFE section also prepare night-vision, anti-G force and communication equipment.

"Not everything we supply is designed to support a flyer's life in the case of an immediate emergency," said Airman 1st Class Marc Tinker, 1st OSS AFE apprentice. "A lot is designed to sustain their consciousness, awareness and overall safety during flight."

Landing an aircraft at night may be complicated without totally functional night vision goggles. The AFE Airmen maintain all NVGs to a certain standard in order to provide aircrew improved situational awareness during periods of low illumination.
Anti-G force trousers also prove crucial for a safe flight, inflating during high-G force situations set on by the inertia of the aircraft.

"The inflation helps regulate blood flow through the body," said Airman 1st Class Annemarie Prozzillo, 1st OSS AFE apprentice. "If blood doesn't continue to flow through all parts of the body, they may lose consciousness or control of the aircraft."
Prozzillo said even the smallest penetration can cause an significant air leak which can result in a potential mishap, meaning the AFE technicians must replace, test and prepare new equipment regularly.

Needing to eject from an aircraft is one thing, but losing consciousness or control of the body may be an even worse scenario. That is why the Airmen of the 1st OSS AFE take their jobs so seriously; they know the pilots' lives may depend on their products someday.