JOINT BASE SAN ANTONIO-RANDOLPH, Texas -- --
The overall mission of the U.S. Air Force is to Fly, Fight and Win. In order to carry out that mission, every plane and pilot must be equipped and ready for any situation. Aircrew Flight Equipment is one of the many units that ensure the safety and success of Air Force flying missions.
AFE personnel like Mario Rios, 12th Operation Support Squadron AFE supervisor, are responsible for making sure all flight equipment and safety components are in working order. AFE teams are aligned with flying squadrons like the 435th Fighter Training Squadron at JBSA-Randolph, which teaches new pilots fundamentals of flying fighter jets.
Because of the training environment within the 435th FTS aircrew, flight equipment personnel are consistently conducting inspections and repairing equipment.
“It’s very fast-paced here,” said Rios. “This is a training squadron, so we get a lot of pilots that need to be fitted. On top of that, each pilot’s equipment must be routinely inspected every 30 days. We also have a lot of sorties here, so we do four to seven pre-flight checks daily and each take about an hour and a half to complete.”
AFE not only checks pilot equipment on a routine basis, but also conducts preflight checks to make sure all equipment is in working order before the pilots step to a jet.
“We take care of anything that the pilot wears, that they need to survive in an aircraft. All the survival components in the seat we maintain,” said Rios. “We inspect helmets, we also build them when a new pilot comes in and doesn’t have any gear, especially since we get a lot of students that come straight from classes. We initially fit them with helmets, masks, anti-G garments and harnesses. If they come in with gear we inspect what they have and make sure it’s up to guideline specifications.”
The attention to detail these professionals use when handling survival kits, parachutes, or maintaining oxygen masks and flight helmets can mean the difference between life and death.
“We save lives. If their gear didn’t work, they probably wouldn’t survive,” said Rios. “Pilots wouldn’t be able to breathe without oxygen and their masks. Even the anti-G garment helps prevent the pilot from passing out if they hit too many Gs. If something went wrong with that gear it would not be a good day for anyone. It would be dangerous for them to fly without us checking their equipment first.”
Every flight, no matter the location of the aircraft or type of aircraft being flown, is checked by AFE. The lives and safety of the pilots depend on the support AFE provides every day.