Military News

Thursday, December 03, 2015

Measureable maintenance

by Airman Shawna L. Keyes
4th Fighter Wing Public Affairs

12/3/2015 - SEYMOUR JOHNSON AIR FORCE BASE, N.C. -- With thousands of working parts, the F-15E Strike Eagle relies on Airmen from several maintenance squadrons to keep the jet in the air. While some of these Airmen work directly on the flightline, others work quietly behind the scenes to ensure Strike Eagles are ready-to-go.

One of those silent warriors is the 4th Component Maintenance Squadron test, measurement and diagnostic equipment shop, also known as the Precision Measurement Equipment Lab, or PMEL.

The 4th CMS PMEL shop calibrates, troubleshoots and repairs more than 8,500 pieces of equipment on Seymour Johnson Air Force Base, North Carolina, Pope Army Airfield, N.C. and the U.S. Coast Guard Cutter Diligence, out of Wilmington, N.C.

The flight is broken down into three different sections: scheduling, quality assurance and PMEL.

The scheduling section is responsible for the entire inventory from various squadrons on base and at other installations. This includes every piece of equipment that has measurement capabilities.

The PMEL section is responsible for the proper functioning of all equipment in the inventory. Ranging from gauges and maintenance tools for the F-15E, to the drug scales used by the 4th Security Forces Squadron and Air Force Office of Special Investigations detachment, these Airmen calibrate and repair everything to specific standards, which are inspected and signed off by the quality assurance section.

"Everything we do here is directly related to how the jet is able to function," said Staff Sgt. John Loving, 4th CMS NCO in-charge of PMEL quality assurance program. "While we may not be exactly on the jet itself, everything they're using out there on the flightline to service that jet is calibrated in our lab."

PMEL handles more than 637 pieces of equipment on a monthly basis coming from various squadrons on base. They also support an inventory of more than 1,280 items from outside the installation.

"If PMEL didn't come out and test our diagnostic equipment, which gives us all of our readings and parameters for the engine, we couldn't guarantee it was actually serviceable," said Staff Sgt. Spencer McGraw, 4th CMS aerospace propulsion flight technician. "If we placed (an unserviceable) engine in a jet, it could result in an in-flight emergency or even loss of an aircraft.  It's really important that PMEL comes out and calibrates our equipment or we can't do our job correctly."

According to Loving, there is a constant flow of equipment coming in and out of the shop. Even when jets aren't flying, PMEL still works around the clock to service the equipment needed to keep the flying mission going.

"If we're not here to service that equipment for a day, a week, things are not going back to the customer and all of sudden those weekly checks, monthly checks, before flight checks, they can't get accomplished because they don't have certified equipment to do it," Loving said.

With anywhere from 20 to 60 items coming into the shop on a daily basis, the more than 20 PMEL technicians have to prioritize the work while still getting items back to the customer in a timely manner.

In addition, the flight maintains a rapid assistance calibration lab, or RASCAL, that operates as a mobile PMEL module. This component, manned by eight technicians, can be sent out in support of overseas contingency operations at a moments notice.

"We have one of only two [RASCALs] in the entire Air Force," said Airman 1st Class Alexis Kogel, 4th CMS TMDE technician. "The RASCAL has to be ready 24/7, so that way if there is a need overseas for it, we can have it ready to deploy within 24 to 48 hours."

According to Loving, all the equipment in PMEL is calibrated to an accuracy four times better than the test equipment's minimum standards. These calibrations can take anywhere from a few hours to several days depending on specifications needed.

"We're kind of the unsung hero, where you don't really know we're here until something bad goes down," Loving said. "In that respect, the more that you don't know about us the better we're doing our job."

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