Center gives 360-degree view of flight line; new software on horizon

John Nicholson, Maintenance Operations Center chief, shows aircraft locations on the Maintenance Operations Center Visualizer. The MOC is a 24/7 operation that assists efforts on the Robins flight line. The MOC's responsibilities are varied, from supporting maintenance professionals with aerospace ground equipment and tracking injuries and incidents, to alerting personnel of inclement weather and keeping eyes on the locations of every aircraft on station. (U.S. Air Force photo by Ed Aspera)

John Nicholson, Maintenance Operations Center chief, shows aircraft locations on the Maintenance Operations Center Visualizer. The MOC is a 24/7 operation that assists efforts on the Robins flight line. The MOC's responsibilities are varied, from supporting maintenance professionals with aerospace ground equipment and tracking injuries and incidents, to alerting personnel of inclement weather and keeping eyes on the locations of every aircraft on station. (U.S. Air Force photo by Ed Aspera)

ROBINS AIR FORCE BASE, Ga. -- The Robins Maintenance Operations Center is an around-the-clock operation, staffed by former mechanics who are trained to assist with just about any request -- from supporting maintenance professionals with dispatching of aerospace ground equipment, to documenting incidents or injuries, to alerting personnel of inclement weather.  

"We are the single point of contact for everyone who is on the flight line," said John "Nick" Nicholson, 402nd Aircraft Maintenance Support Squadron MOC chief. 

But one initiative in particular will soon transform how information is received on an aircraft's real-time status and location. 

It's called the MOC Visualizer, part of a bigger program under the Air Force Global Enterprise Tracking software infrastructure. The new, automated, web-based system will replace what's usually seen on an oversized white board: the MOC Parking Display Board.

Although archaic by today's standards, the magnetic board -- which shows C-5, C-17, C-130 and F-15 aircraft currently here -- has been an important safety feature for anyone working on the flight line. When an emergency call comes to the MOC, for example someone suffers an accident on an airplane, personnel can immediately locate where that person is while also on the phone with emergency personnel on and/or off base. The MOC can have direct eyes and ears on just about every situation that happens with not only people but aircraft they work on here.   

"It's a map of the base, of the flight line," said Nicholson of the older magnetic board. "If something happens out there, we know where it's at. We can track anything."

While the magnetic display board has proven its reliability over the years, the new MOC Visualizer software will be a game-changer that will offer much more detailed information.

Under one menu, the MOC Visualizer will allow MOC controllers the ability to input not only where an aircraft is located, but relevant information on dates related to programmed depot maintenance. 

When an F-15 is currently in a particular hangar to undergo functional testing, the software will track when that happens. When a C-5 has a late-afternoon engine run, an icon next to the plane will highlight that test with an engine with flames. Or when a C-130 is being refueled, that information will be available, in real-time. Currently it's tracked on paper. 

A production status report will also prove useful for supervisors across the complex who wish to view its repository of data, including aircraft types, home station, tail number, arrival and departure dates, and applicable PDM dates for all aircraft on station and those due to arrive throughout the year. 

"This will allow things to be more simplified and much easier," said Tom Flowers, MOC controller.  

To further assist with tracking aircraft on the MOC Visualizer, aircraft here will soon be outfitted with active radio frequency identification tags, according to Nicholson. These are already in use on various tools, aircraft parts, aircraft ground equipment and tasks kits to track their location anywhere in an industrial area. That, too, was a game-changer as now these can be located electronically versus manually. 

An invaluable resource, the MOC has provided Robins with the big picture for many years. There's still much work to be done with the software, so sharing it is still months away, but the Visualizer is already taking the MOC game to the next level.