Whether it’s taking an automobile in for preventative or restorative maintenance, trust is generally put in the hands of a specialist. The same can be said for the aircraft gracing Ramstein Air Base’s flightline.
One group of specialists entrusted to take care of the aircraft and the personnel in them is the 86th Maintenance Squadron’s electrical and environmental systems flight.
Tasked with performing preventative maintenance to ensure aircraft and personnel are safe, the electrical and environmental systems flight conducts inspections on a variety of aircraft parts.
“We do major and minor inspections,” said Senior Airman Gabriel Sundstrom, 86th MXS electrical and environmental specialist. “A minor inspection can take only a few minutes to a few days, but a major one can take a couple of weeks to complete. It all just depends on an aircraft’s flying hours.”
Minor inspections can include things as small and quick as checking the emergency exit lights, while major inspections include things higher on the safety list.
“Something major would be an anti-skid operations check,” said Sundstrom, a native of San Diego. “When the aircraft comes in to land, they turn it on, and it makes sure the wheels don’t lock up and throw the plane off balance.”
Sundstrom said he and the other electrical and environmental specialists work on anything that has electricity running through it, but they also work on improving the environment for the Airmen working in the aircraft.
Sundstrom said the electrical and environmental specialists also maintain tanks that hold liquid oxygen on the aircraft. These tanks run liquid oxygen through a series of pipes that turns it into a gas warm enough for the Airmen on the aircraft to breathe.
Though the items checked vary on the severity of damage they can cause if not working properly, Sundstrom said he thinks they all hold the same weight of importance during inspections.
If there is one item, such as the liquid oxygen tanks, not functioning properly, it can delay an aircraft’s departure. That in turn can delay the arrival of troops or supplies to those who need them.
“It’s all very important in the long run,” he said. “Emergency exit lights may be a quick check, but if something goes wrong with the plane, (the Airmen) can see where to go. Some things just need a more frequent check than others.”
To ensure items are being inspected as often as needed, the electrical and environmental specialists depend on the Maintenance Operations Center.
“The MOC makes sure everything is on a schedule,” Sundstrom said. “If something fell behind, they let us know there is still this aircraft that can go. It’s all about working together through our production supervisors at the 86th MXS and (86th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron) to make sure a plane is down when it’s supposed to be or, if a plane that’s down for inspection, can be prepped if it will be done soon. It’s just a whole river of systems that needs to flow smoothly.”
Just as the systems between shops are expected to flow smoothly, so are the operations of the systems on the aircraft, and the 86th MXS electrical and environmental systems flight does its part to ensure the environment and electrical systems run as smoothly as possible.