Life Support, Aerospace Physiology play crucial role in keeping pilots alive

Staff Sgt. James Chase, 50th Flying Training Squadron Life Support, helps 1st Lt. Johnny Koegel, 50th FTS, tighten the straps on his parachute before going out to a flight.

Staff Sgt. James Chase, 50th Flying Training Squadron Life Support, helps 1st Lt. Johnny Koegel, 50th FTS, tighten the straps on his parachute before going out to a flight.

Senior Airman Shannon Smith, 50th Flying Training Squadron Life Support, inspects equipment as part of his daily routine.

Senior Airman Shannon Smith, 50th Flying Training Squadron Life Support, inspects equipment as part of his daily routine.

COLUMBUS AIR FORCE BASE, Miss. -- A T-38 from the 50th Flying Training Squadron crashed near Batesville, Miss., Jan. 18 while on a low-level training sortie. The pilots survived the incident because of proper execution of emergency procedures. This incident provides a testament to successful training and dependable equipment. Aerospace physiology and life support can take credit for two lives saved.
The aerospace physiology portion of pilot training is run by the 14h Medical Operations Squadron at CAFB. This unit trains pilot students, refreshes rated pilots, and briefly trains those in parasailing, egress, oxygen equipment and harness equipment. Captain Eric Phillips, 14th Medical Operations Squadron, stated, "We also touch on survival training for local conditions...specifically around Columbus."
The parasailing portion of physiology training prepares pilots and students for landing with a parachute in case of ejection. Captain Phillips explains part of the parachute training as putting the students "through a full day of countless parachute landing falls." During the parasailing portion, students are pulled up to 500 feet using a tow line from a vehicle. "They get high enough to get the parachute inflated and practice their landing," said Captain Phillips. He continued, "the second time they go up in the air, they actually move the parachute in the wind."
The people of aerospace physiology focus on keeping the pilots alive. They take pride in their role as a part of threat mitigation and focus on providing the highest quality physiological and human performance enhancement training for all aircrews and prospective aircrew members. According to Captain Phillips "the safety of our student pilots, aircrew, and Columbus AFB Airmen is paramount."
While aerospace physiology focuses on training and preparation of pilots, life support units are attached to flying squadrons and are responsible for maintaining the equipment that keep crews alive. At the 50th FTS, day-to-day life support operations consist of the inspection of more than 40 pieces of equipment including helmets, masks, g-suits, parachutes, and personal survival kits. They also conduct post-flight clean-ups on their equipment as well as provide customer service for the pilots using their equipment.
The Airmen of the 50th FTS Life Support team undergo a six-week technical school at Sheppard AFB, Texas, where they learn fundamentals of the Life Support career field. Upon completion of this course, these Airmen undergo on-the-job training for specific aircraft at the base and with the squadron to which they will be assigned.
Staff Sgt. James Chase, 50th FTS Life Support, has completed this training and is one of the inspectors for the equipment. He stated, "you never understand the seriousness of this job until you find out the equipment you just inspected was used to save someone's life." He continued, "Their lives our in our hands every day they step out that door."
"You are not going to get your wings through us," Captain Phillips pointed out, but appropriate training and dependable equipment are what keep pilots alive. At CAFB and across the USAF, training is conducted by aerospace physiology units and equipment is provided by life support units. These missions, that allow no room for error, enable CAFB to continue its mission of building the world's best leaders, warriors, and professional military pilots.