MCAS Beaufort,S.C. --
Pilots climb aboard their F/A-18 Hornets knowing their emergency equipment is maintained by skilled flight equipment repair technicians.
The flight equipment section of each aircraft squadron is responsible for ensuring all aviators have all of their emergency equipment, it fits properly, and is in working condition.
Flight equipment maintenance technicians are responsible for altering and maintaining: parachute harnesses, gravity suits, cold weather survival gear, flight helmets and equipment carriers.
Each piece of equipment maintained by flight equipment technicians fills a different role in the survival of pilots during a flight and in the event of an emergency ejection.
A pilot once came in and thanked our section for helping to keep him alive after having to eject from his aircraft,” said Sgt. Andrew Emig, a Marine All- Weather Fighter Attack Squadron 224 flight equipment technician. “It may not happen often but the life of another Marine can rest in the integrity of the equipment we provide them.”
The harness-like system is comprised of an air bladder that inflates around the pilots limbs, pushing blood to the pilot’s brain. The suit keeps gravitational forces from interrupting blood flow to the brain, potentially causing the pilot to lose consciousness.
“I have a lot of faith in our gear,” said Capt. Michael Stroup, a VMFA(AW)-224 pilot. “There have been a lot of people, who have survived partially because of the gear.
Flight equipment experts take the measurements of each pilot and ensures that the air bladders are positioned correctly on the pilots bodies while inflated.
“Within every 365 day period every piece of gear that each pilot wears will be checked,” said Emig. “The most frequent piece of gear we check is the air mask.
“Every 30 days all 40 masks used by the pilots will be checked.”
Flight equipment such as the parachute harness, flight vest and gravity suits have fabric seams that the flight equipment Marines inspect and repair on a regular basis, said Lance Cpl. Walter Rodriguez, a VMFA(AW)-224 flight equipment technician.
“We do a little bit of everything,” said Rodriguez. “To work with the flares we must have an ordnance qualification.
“We have to be familiar with the radios on the survival vests and the little stuff that no one really looks at.”
The work of these Marines saves lives. When Marine Corps aviators face an emergency, they do not face it alone; they have the hard work of maintenance Marines to count on.
“I have a lot of faith and trust in our guys because they go though all our gear and make sure it’s working,” said Stroup. “This equipment is here for us in case everything else goes wrong. It’s our last safety net.”