News: Providing pilots’ protection
Story by Staff Sgt. David Dobrydney
BAGRAM AIR FIELD, Afghanistan - The A-10 Thunderbolt II is a formidable aircraft that plays an invaluable role providing close air support to troops on the ground here.
Ensuring the pilots who fly those A-10s are always combat effective are the Airmen of the 74th Expeditionary Fighter Squadron aircrew flight equipment section.
“We keep our pilots safe,” said Tech. Sgt. Lissy Mayer, 74th EFS noncommissioned officer in charge of aircrew flight equipment. “We have regular inspections as well as preflight and post-flight … making sure their gear and equipment is good to go.”
The section is manned 24 hours a day, repairing and preparing pilots’ gear for upcoming missions. Working off the flight schedule for a day’s missions, the airmen start the night prior by attaching the pilot’s survival radio to their g-suit.
Mayer previously worked with heavy cargo aircraft and said that each airframe has different sets of equipment the technicians must be familiar with.
“I had to learn a lot different equipment. The heavy didn’t have g-suits or … parachutes,” she said.
Another piece which is unique to the A-10 is the new Scorpion Helmet-Mounted Integrated Targeting system. The Scorpion allows pilots to view targeting data in real time through an eyepiece attached to the helmet itself.
“With this system, it’s very important everything is fitting properly,” said Senior Airman Sean Crowell, 74th EFS aircrew flight equipment technician. Otherwise, the display will be out of alignment and its effectiveness degraded.
The HMIT is just one item among many that the Airmen adjust in order to keep the pilots battle ready, yet comfortable during long hours in the cockpit. Crowell noted the pilots are more vocal about needed changes in the deployed environment than back home.
“At home they’ll fly one, maybe two hours; out here they might be out four to five hours,” he said. “We get a lot of feedback [and] you realize everything that you do is for a reason and that it can make a difference.”
Capt. James Schmidt, 74th EFS pilot, agreed that the aircrew flight equipment section keeps him and his fellow flyers safe.
“Our equipment is our first line of defense,” Schmidt said, adding that the section is at its best when the pilots don’t even notice their equipment is working perfectly.
“They allow us to do our job to the fullest degree,” he concluded. “This crew is very good at what they do.”