Keeping aircraft in the air takes more than a pilot in the seat. Airmen with the 86th Operations Support Squadron Aircrew Flight Equipment shop ensure pilots can accomplish their piece of the mission by providing them operational equipment to keep them alive when everything else fails.
Inspecting, maintaining, packing, adjusting and keeping lifesaving gear in working condition for the Airmen who need it is the AFE’s mission.
“AFE provides exceptional support to the warfighter,” said Tech. Sgt. Timothy Ledford, 86th OSS C-130 AFE shop NCOIC. “We are the last ones to let our flyers down.”
Equipment failure prevention is key for AFE technicians; rigorous and frequent inspections of flight equipment are necessary to ensure everything works when needed.
“Everything we do is precautionary,” said Airman 1st Class Mitchell Lagan, 86th OSS AFE technician. “When aircrews are in a bad situation, they’re going to use what we do to get back safely.”
A lost life is detrimental to the Airman’s family and the Air Force. By supplying all the needed aircraft escape equipment, the 86th OSS safeguards the Air Force’s most valuable resource.
“We handle the emergency equipment on aircraft as well,” Lagan said. “Oxygen systems, parachutes, flotation devices, land survival vests and all the other required equipment needed to survive an incident. If an incident occurred, this equipment would be necessary to save the lives of the aircrew.”
Though the majority of pilots will never have to use their flight and survival equipment at work, it is still the No. 1 task of the Airmen who inspect it, pack it and prepare it that it works the first time, every time.
“By removing equipment shortfalls from the picture, we allow aircrews to more easily press on and accomplish their mission,” said Tech. Sgt. Kishawn Thibou, 86th OSS AFE NCOIC.
Ensuring every Airman makes it home safely through almost any incident is what the AFE shop sets out to accomplish.
“We’re here when something goes wrong,” Lagan said. “If an aircraft does goes down, if there are Airmen in the water, if aircrews are making their way over land, it’s our responsibility to ensure the gear necessary to save their lives and get them back home is functioning. When everything else fails, we won’t.”