News: Aviation flight equipment techs ensure pilot safety
Story by Lance Cpl. Kenneth Trotter
KADENA AIR BASE, Japan - Marine All-Weather Fighter Attack Squadron 533’s aviation flight equipment technicians inspect the pilots’ personal gear before they suit up to ensure their safety.
One piece technicians inspect is the survival gear.
“We make sure the survival gear has anything the pilots would need if they were in [a survival] scenario,” said Lance Cpl. Drew C. Weston, a VMFA(AW)-533 aviation flight equipment technician. “We have limited space for gear. It’s important the pilots have items that will work for any location.”
Some survival gear items include: knives, flares and an encrypted radio capable of calling and sending short text messages to a rescue party on all search and rescue frequencies.
Another important piece of equipment the aviation flight equipment technicians inspect regularly is the H-harness.
An H-harness will keep a pilot secure in the cockpit so he isn’t bouncing around while performing aerial maneuvers. The H-harness also is what connects the pilot to his parachute if he were ever in a situation where he needed to eject.
The aviation flight equipment technicians look for corrosion in the straps and general wear and tear of the device.
“Our motto is ‘The last to let you down.” Weston said. “If everything else goes wrong, the gear we inspect and maintain is going to work.”
Routine pilot gear inspections are conducted every 30, 90 and 180 days.
The communication equipment pilots use to talk to each other and the masks the equipment is housed in is checked every 30 days.
The masks also supply the pilots with oxygen to keep them from suffocating while flying at high altitudes where the cockpit is pressurized.
The gear in the survival vest and helmets are inspected every 90 days to ensure there are no cracks on the helmet or strap corrosion.
The G-suit is checked every 180 days. G-suits apply pressure to the legs and torso of the pilots forcing blood back to their heads to prevent them from losing consciousness at high speeds.
“The pilots can go without the G-suits,” said Staff Sgt. Michael A. Parks, the VMFA(AW)-533 aviation flight equipment staff non commissioned officer in charge. “The G-suits just make flying missions, especially combat missions, much safer.”
One of the more recent items Weston has had to inspect is the joint helmet-mounted cueing system.
The JHMCS has a heads up display in the visor that can designate friendly and enemy aircraft. If an aircraft flies under or above the pilots, a marker tracks where the aircraft went so the pilots don’t have to tilt the cockpit to see them.
“This makes our job a lot easier,” said Capt. Ernie Drake, a VMFA(AW)-533 F/A-18 pilot. “Now we can just look around and see a little box in our HUD and know that’s the enemy.”
Before the pilots climb into the cockpit, they check their gear to make sure everything is there.
“We really just make sure everything is there when we put on the gear,” said Drake. “Beyond that, we just trust in the equipment techniciansto make sure that every component works.”
The trust the pilots are able to put into the aviation flight equipment technicians allows the pilots to focus on what’s most important, completing the mission.