Military News

Monday, September 14, 2015

Hickory dickory dock: Crew chiefs work around the clock

by Airman 1st Class Cary Smith
31st Fighter Wing Public Affairs


9/11/2015 - AVIANO AIR BASE, Italy  -- This year so far has been demanding as Aviano's missions were heard roaring across skies all over the world from Turkey to Afghanistan, and all the way to Sweden.

Even with F-16 Fighting Falcons deployed to multiple locations, the 31st Aircraft Maintenance Squadron crew chiefs continue their busy schedule.

"It's our job to make sure the remaining jets are good to go," said U.S. Air Force Airman 1st Class Keitha Whitaker, 31st AMXS crew chief. "The flying schedule never changes here because pilots still need to meet their flying qualifications."

To ensure the remaining jets are ready for the following day's flight schedule, three shifts of Airmen work around the clock.

Day shift performs aircraft launch and recovery as well as flightline inspections. Swing shift handles the majority of maintenance concerns. Mid shift completes the 24-hour day with final pressure checks and prepares the jets for the next rotation to start.

Daytime crew chiefs start with their pre-flight inspections. They also manage all the tasks associated with take-offs, refueling and landing.

"Day shift ends with their post-flight inspections after the jets land," said Whitaker. "Once they find any issues, they hand the workload over to swing shift expeditors."

Expeditors are the foremen of the job, assigning tasks to the maintenance crews and overseeing the work. The workload is divvied out with crucial tasks assigned to more experienced crew chiefs and less in-depth jobs to newer Airmen.

Swing shift works on disassembling and repairing sections of the aircraft based upon where that jet fits in the timeline for completion.

"Swings are the backbone of our maintenance," said U.S. Air Force Tech. Sgt. Jose Burr, 31st AMXS NCO in charge. "Their primary task is to repair all the discrepancies on an aircraft so it is ready for flight the following day."

Maintenance crews tighten the last bolts, fix all the final discrepancies, and log their work for accountability as the workload is passed over to the next shift.

Before the sun rises, mid shift comes in and handles the brunt of servicing. They perform fluid checks, minor maintenance, and pressure checks to complete final preparations and clear the aircraft for the morning.

"Everything we do is team-oriented with the crews involved around the clock," said Whitaker. "What helps us get through long hours of hard work is leadership, knowing that they are here to guide us on the right track."

There is pressure to get the job done quickly and accurately so that the next day can start on schedule.

"The leadership here reminds Airmen to work as a team and leave no one behind," said Burr. "I remind them that every sacrifice is recognized and that everyone is equally important to the mission."

With greasy hands and sore arms from struggling against tightly fastened bolts, crew chiefs take pride in their work and contribution to the overall mission.

"It is very fulfilling to take a faulty product and put blood, sweat and tears into it," said Burr. "Our crew chiefs get to see their work transform into a capable aircraft flown on missions all over the world."

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