SUMTER, S.C. — Soaring high, the F-16 Fighting Falcon is one of the predominant uses of air power used by the U.S. Air Force in air-to-surface attack. Its superior technology allows it to be a leading weapon in enemy suppression. Pilots could not fly these aircrafts without the help of aircrew flight equipment specialists, who ensure the safety of pilots through the maintenance of helmets, oxygen masks and anti-gravity flight suits.
According to Air Combat Command Public Affairs, ACC stresses the importance of safety. The safety of the 55th, 77th and 79th Fighter Squadron pilots at Shaw Air Force Base is ensured by the aircrew flight equipment specialists.
“A pilot's life can literally depend on how well his or her flight equipment functions and it’s aircrew flight equipment personnel's responsibility to ensure it works right every time, and with that kind of responsibility, what they do is very important,” said Ford.
Aircrew flight equipment specialists must be precise in ensuring the accountability of all equipment.
“The aircrew flight equipment is important because it keeps the pilot connected to the jet,” said Capt. Luke Bledsoe, 79th Fighter Squadron pilot. “It allows us to use the jets capabilities to pull g’s to fight our adversaries.”
The aircrew flight equipment specialists play a vital role in not only allowing pilots to easily fly, but also keeping them safe.
“We take care of everything that the pilot wears (during a flight),” said Senior Airman Daniel Burnette, 79th Fighter Squadron “Tigers”, aircrew flight equipment specialist. “Without us, they’re not really going anywhere. If a pilot goes down, it feels good to know that I may have saved that person’s life with the gear that I’ve inspected for them. Our motto is to be the last ones to let them down.”
The 20th Fighter Wing’s primary mission is to provide combat ready airpower, and airmen, to meet any challenge, anytime, anywhere. The aircrew flight equipment personnel ensure that through the preparedness of equipment used in flight at Shaw.
“The specialized work of the men and women in the Aircrew Flight Equipment community is vitally important,” said Chief Master Sgt. Darrel Ford, 20th Operations Group superintendent. “Without their dedicated efforts in ensuring safe and reliable flight equipment, pilots would not be able to safely execute Shaw's mission in providing combat Airpower in support of Air Force needs.”