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Military

F-16 maintainers make sure curtain gets raised

by Senior Airman Shaun Emery
332nd Air Expeditionary Wing Public Affairs


7/5/2005 - BALAD AIR BASE, Iraq (AFPN)  -- Like a Broadway show, the stars get all the attention. But behind the scenes, key roles must be performed for the show to go on.

The theater that the 332nd Air Expeditionary Wing performs under features fast, agile fighter planes providing air support for troops on the ground. But without the hard work and dedication of aircraft maintainers working behind the scenes, the curtain could not be raised.

Airmen with the 510th and 332nd Aircraft Maintenance Units here provide daily maintenance and preflight checks for F-16 Fighting Falcon sorties. Their mission is to ensure that pilots get in the air and back on the ground safely. It is a mission each Airman takes seriously.

“We want to ensure our pilots have a quality product for their missions,” said Lt. Col. Dave Salva, the 332nd Expeditionary Aircraft Maintenance Squadron maintenance operations officer. “Whether we’re providing close-air support for troops, a show of force or serving as an eye from the sky, without maintained aircraft we couldn’t do our mission.”

Each plane is inspected from front to back before each mission. The planes are stripped and rebuilt ensuring each part works properly. The work is tedious, and the ratio of flight hours to maintenance hours is stacked heavily on the maintenance side, Colonel Salva said.

Although deployed life may be new to some maintainers, the aircraft they maintain are not. The planes they maintain here are the ones they have been working on at their home stations.

“We already know the systems on these aircraft,” said Senior Master Sgt. Lloyd Muranaka, noncommissioned officer in charge of the 332nd EAMXS. “We know their history and their systems and what it takes to get them in the air.”

Just like an automobile, aircraft have key systems that need great attention. Each one, like the egress system, is vital to pilots.

“It’s their last resource to survival,” said Tech. Sgt. Larry Vasquez, 510th AMU egress shop chief.

The checks maintainers make are the same ones they have been making since Day 1, but maintainers say complacency and shortcuts have no place in a deployed environment.

“Each check has a purpose,” said Senior Airman Justin Foulsham, a 332nd EAMXS assisted dedicated crew chief. “It’s not about rushing; it’s about getting planes in the air.”

With multiple curtain calls every day, aircraft maintainers are hard at work knowing the show must go on.



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