Maintaining the fleet: Aircraft maintenance ensure pilots safety

  • Published
  • By Senior Airman Keith Holcomb
  • 14th Flying Training Wing Public Affairs
With some jets flying three or more training sorties a day, five days a week, it’s no easy task to keep up with fixing minor and occasionally major issues that may come up.

On average, 53,000 training missions are flown out of Columbus Air Force Base, Mississippi. Over 337,560 hours were spent maintaining Columbus AFB’s three airframes during fiscal year 2018 to ensure the fleet of over 230 aircraft stayed in top shape, playing a vital role in creating pilots.

“As they accumulate hours of flying time, there’s certain time change requirements and scheduled maintenance that must be complete,” said Brett Treece, T-1A Jayhawk maintenance manager. “Normal aircraft that break throughout the day are considered unscheduled maintenance.”

Treece is one of three individuals in the T-1 section who manage the maintenance from before dusk until after dawn. Each of the other maintenance teams, T-6 Texan II and T-38 Talon, works similarly, but accommodate their schedules around the flow of their aircraft.

Each airframe has crews who launch and receive the aircraft. Before launch and after landing, the aircraft are inspected by maintainers and their crew to ensure Columbus AFB is consistent with quality checks.

While the Vertex Aerospace maintenance team continues to do the hands-on maintenance of the aircraft, active-duty and civilian Airmen help the teams meet every project's tough military standards.

Contracted aircraft maintenance have quality assurance professionals looking over every crews work and operating systems, said Tech. Sgt. Leandrew Lloyd III, 14th Flying Training Wing contracting officer representative. He explained his job is to follow the quality assurance team to ensure the work meets Air Force standards.

The partnership between uniformed and civilian members in Maintenance Authority Quality is that of a close knit family, said Lloyd. “We are always willing to help each other out or pull from each other’s vast aircraft experience.”

The 14th FTW MAQ team has established a working relationship with Vertex; together they ensure an emphasis on quality of service and are continuously improving the quality of programs and service offered at Columbus AFB.

“On a daily basis, our team will come in to work, troubleshoot aircraft, order the parts and then change the parts,” Treece said. “We try to work the aircraft in a way we can quick turn it so they can go back and join the fleet. Currently our goal is to get our ‘hangar queens’ out of here.”

Hangar queens are the few aircraft with major problems, which take much longer to fix. By requiring more manpower and time waiting for parts or being repaired, it takes an aircraft away from training; for instance, if an engine of any trainer airframe needs repairs, it could be waiting for a small part to be ordered and shipped to Columbus AFB before it will fly again.

The high demand of the mission at the 14th FTW requires all aircraft to be ready and efficient at all times to help train and create future pilots. Maintainers have the responsibility to ensure these aircraft have the equipment it needs and is in top condition to successfully train the next generation of aviators.