L3 maintains pilot production one aircraft at a time

Steve Henderson, L3 Technologies T-38C Talon maintainer, finishes switching the stability augmentation system on a T-38 Feb. 14, 2018, on Columbus Air Force Base, Mississippi. Maintainers must take the outside hull of the aircraft apart, similar to a shell, to reach pieces such as the engine to complete some of their maintenance. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Keith Holcomb)

Steve Henderson, L3 Technologies T-38C Talon maintainer, finishes switching the stability augmentation system on a T-38 Feb. 14, 2018, on Columbus Air Force Base, Mississippi. Maintainers must take the outside hull of the aircraft apart, similar to a shell, to reach pieces such as the engine to complete some of their maintenance. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Keith Holcomb)

Roy Norman, L3 Technologies T-38C Talon egress mechanic installs a survival kit onto a T-38 ejection seat, Feb. 14, 2018, on Columbus Air Force Base, Mississippi. After the final inspection of each T-38 seat the survival kit is reinstalled, this process ensures the seat is up to date and ready to be used in case of an emergency. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Keith Holcomb)

Roy Norman, L3 Technologies T-38C Talon egress mechanic installs a survival kit onto a T-38 ejection seat, Feb. 14, 2018, on Columbus Air Force Base, Mississippi. After the final inspection of each T-38 seat the survival kit is reinstalled, this process ensures the seat is up to date and ready to be used in case of an emergency. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Keith Holcomb)

Raymond Beauregard, L3 Technologies senior aircraft maintainer, tightens screws after repairing the rotating beacon on a T-38C Talon Feb. 15, 2018, on Columbus Air Force Base, Mississippi. Routine maintenance can be completed on the flight line, and is essential for quickly getting aircraft back into the air. Larger fixes are towed to one of the many hangers on Columbus AFB and are repaired day and night until completed. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Keith Holcomb)

Raymond Beauregard, L3 Technologies senior aircraft maintainer, tightens screws after repairing the rotating beacon on a T-38C Talon Feb. 15, 2018, on Columbus Air Force Base, Mississippi. Routine maintenance can be completed on the flight line, and is essential for quickly getting aircraft back into the air. Larger fixes are towed to one of the many hangers on Columbus AFB and are repaired day and night until completed. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Keith Holcomb)

COLUMBUS AIR FORCE BASE, Miss. --

The L3 Technologies, a Mississippi aerospace and defense company, provides contracted maintenance to Columbus Air Force Base, ensuring the pilots have the aircraft they need to train at their peak performance every day.

L3 Technologies aircraft maintenance, although it is contracted out, must follow Air Force instruction and safety requirements on top of the requirements set by the company itself.

“These guys and gals … they’re the backbone, they’re the lifeblood of the operations here,” said Paul Archer, T-38C Talon foreman. “I believe they are an essential part of the mission.”

In a managerial role over the T-38 maintenance teams, Archer manages scheduling, briefs incoming shifts, and works to ensure the airframes under his supervision are ready to fly and meeting the L3 contractual obligations to pilot training.

With over 450 L3 members and above 230 aircraft on Columbus AFB the maintainers work day and night to prepare, recover, inspect, and launch the 47 T-1A Jayhawk’s, 99 T-6A Texan II’s and the 87 T-38’s.

The crews need to be able to taxi in aircraft, park them and preform a through flight inspection, Archer said. “A through flight inspection is making sure the aircraft is not leaking, the tires are serviceable, and there’s no breaks on the airframe, stuff like that … On night shifts and when aircraft break the mechanics become absolutely essential. That’s when the aircraft are towed into the hangers in order to repair the airplane and that’s done to meet our turnaround times.”

The pilot training mission demands aircraft be ready at all times and it’s not easy to keep that pace up, said Archer, but it must be completed to train more than 300 pilots every year.

“We have a flying schedule we go by, constantly launching and recovering aircraft, then we inspect them to ensure the aircraft to fly again and that’s pretty much a day for the flight line crews,” said William Kokoruda, T-38 lead maintainer. “It gets tight sometimes, we have to get them fueled and inspect them and now you have to look at your next launch time, you really have to watch your timeframe.”

Each airframe must be inspected and repaired as fast as pilots can sit in to take off for their next sortie. The constant care and attention to detail is crucial from the maintainers.

Some of the men and women working under L3 have prior military service or are currently in the Air National Guard or Air Force Reserves. The community and work the L3 provide for pilot production is fast, efficient and has been part of the 14th Flying Training Wing for over 20 years.

“I do enjoy what I do and in the aircraft career field you learn something everyday,” Kokoruda said, “and we do the best we can and try to give the customer the best product we can at the end of the day. That’s what we do here.”