Guaranteeing aircrew survivability
YOKOTA AIR BASE, Japan -- While soaring at an altitude of 15,000 feet, the engines on the right side of the aircraft, numbers three and four, unexpectedly go out. They're not coming back to life. The onboard aircrew members have no choice but to bail out of the plane.
If this scenario was real, the aircrew would have no other option than to use life-saving equipment such as parachutes, floatation devices or even quick donning oxygen masks. There's no room for failure with this equipment. It must work the first time, every time.
The Airmen at the 374th Operations Support Squadron aircrew flight equipment make that happen.
"If something does happen, we're the last resort for the aircrew," said Senior Airman Yonas Seyoum, 374 OSS AFE journeyman. "If they need to bail out of the aircraft, the parachutes need to work. If they fly nighttime tactical missions, their night vision goggles need to be working correctly."
The amount of equipment AFE Airmen work with is staggering. If it deals with safety on an aircraft, they have their hands in it.
"We work with helmets, harnesses, all kinds of different parachutes, night vision goggles, floatation devices, quick donning masks and pretty much any other kind of survival equipment," said Airman 1st Class Zachary Cody, 374 OSS AFE journeyman.
In addition to servicing and cleaning all the equipment to make sure it's up-to-par, they can do their own repairs. A variety of rope and cloth are abundant to mend tears or create patches.
"We can do everything," Cody said. "We can take helmets and build them up or break them down. We can take a harness and construct it to be a parachute pack. We get to be very hands-on with our job."
By working with life-saving equipment and interacting with aircrew, the AFE Airmen really understand how their work affects the mission and how many different it takes to complete Yokota's mission.
"The most satisfying aspect of my job is going out to the flightline and uploading all the equipment on the aircraft," Seyoum said. "We're interacting with the aircrew, crew chiefs and anyone else on the aircraft. We get to see what they do and they get to see what we do. It really helps us get a better understanding of the broader range of people it takes to get the mission accomplished."