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412th AMXS unit shows why they own the night
As the sun fades over the Edwards flightline, a crew chief with the 445th Aircraft Maintenance Unit performs a post-flight inspection on an F-16 during the swing shift. The 445 AMU is just one of many units that provide maintenance support to Edwards Air Force Base aircraft during the day, night and weekend. (U.S. Air Force photo/Jet Fabara)
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412th AMXS unit shows why they own the night

Posted 2/29/2012   Updated 3/1/2012 Email story   Print story

    


by Jet Fabara
95th Air Base Wing Public Affairs


2/29/2012 - EDWARDS AIR FORCE BASE, Calif. -- As the sun fades over Edwards' flightline, the 445th Aircraft Maintenance Unit, known as "Shadow," comes in to provide maintenance support under the cover of night.

Assigned to the 412th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron "Howling Dawgs," the night shift team consists of more than 100 military and civilian maintainers working collectively to generate sorties for flight test chase support and the U.S. Air Force Test Pilot School curriculum. This joint effort, in turn, provides a seamless transition for the day shift maintainers supporting flight operations the following day.

"Working at Edwards presents a considerable challenge to maintaining heavily utilized aircraft. Throughout the busy flying day, there is little time to complete actual aircraft maintenance, because the focus is on sortie generation and getting the aircraft in the air," said Tech. Sgt. Justin Reese, 412 AMXS flightline expediter. "By the end of the day, there are a multitude of maintenance actions that have accrued and must be checked off before the aircraft can be ready for the next day's schedule. This is a crucial time to catch up, get ahead and keep the fleet performing at its best."

According to Reese, although the 445 AMU maintainers primarily oversee Shadow's fleet of F-16s and T-38s, there are smaller aircraft maintenance units like the 411 AMU and 461 AMU that augment Lockheed Martin on the F-35 and F-22 test programs, who are also part of the 412 AMXS.

"Maintaining aircraft on swing shift requires a monumental amount of teamwork," said Maj. Anthony Antoline, 412 AMXS commander. "Each section impacts the others and they have to work together in order to ensure maintenance effectiveness."

During a typical evening, the swing shift unit ensures the remaining flights for the day and the night are supported. In addition to supporting flight operations during the weekend, any reconfiguration of weapons, pods and fuel tanks is simultaneously taking place while other maintainers are troubleshooting and repairing any aircraft that are non-mission capable.

"This is a massive undertaking that is a mix of scheduled maintenance and inspections to ensure only the safest aircraft are ready for our aircrews," Reese said. "Attention to detail and dedication are a necessity to work in this environment."

That attention to detail is where this team demonstrates how they are able to overcome the physiological effects that come with working during odd hours of the night.

"You have to show discipline when it comes to working nights. On the flightline, you're dealing with multi-million dollar aircraft," said Airman 1st Class Andrew Islas, 412 AMXS swing shift maintenance specialist. "The slightest loss of concentration on the task at hand could end up costing a person's life, damaging the aircraft, losing valuable man-hours and costing thousands of dollars in repairs."

For maintenance specialists that have recently completed technical school like Islas, a major benefit of working the swing shift at Edwards is being able to see and work on a multitude of different modified flight test aircraft.

"There is a wealth of knowledge between the military and civilian personnel [here] who have been working on these aircraft longer than I have," said Senior Airman David Wilkins, 412 AMXS swing shift crew chief. "Every chance I get I am picking their brains to help me become more effective."

As in any job, despite the hour of the day, Islas said that teamwork is always the essential component in overcoming the challenges and achieving success as a maintainer from night-to-day and day-to-night.

"Without the combined efforts of crew chiefs, weapons specialists and maintenance specialists, every aircraft in the Air Force inventory would just be a very expensive piece of metal," said Islas.



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