News | May 9, 2017

F-16 maintainers and fuel specialists run 24 hour operations

By Airman 1st Class Alexis P. Docherty 49th Wing Public Affairs

Holloman’s 54th Aircraft Maintenance Airmen work tirelessly to keep the F-16 Fighting Falcon, a single-engine supersonic multirole fighter aircraft, flying high above New Mexico’s desert.

Responsibilities of F-16 crew chiefs range from maintenance duties to oil servicing and checking tires. Similar to any aircraft, an F-16 can be damaged or break down unexpectedly. The ‘health’ of an F-16 is dependent upon its maintainers.

“These jets are a lot like humans,” said Airman 1st Class Derek King, a 54th Aircraft Maintenance Unit F-16 crew chief. “[Being a crew chief] is kind of like being a doctor, but on an aircraft. The jet might be feeling good that day--he might go up and down without any problems and your day is a lot easier. But, if he comes down and something is wrong, then it has to be fixed. You can do all the things that our technical data prepares us for, as far as making sure the aircraft is ready to fly, but you never can predict how it is going to come back.”

The 54th AMU runs 24 hour operations, covering three shifts—days, swings and mids. Maintainers perform a wide-range of tasks during these shifts.

“On any given eight hour shift, you might spend six of those hours out here on your aircraft,” King said. “On a day or swing shift schedule: you come in, and you do not know what your turn-over is going to tell you. Whenever you get that turn-over, your day is either going to go really well or you are going to be super busy. Either way, you never know what you are going to get. It always keeps you curious.”

This inability to foretell what is going to happen on a given shift is what makes maintenance work mentally and physically taxing for some Airmen.

“The most difficult aspect of being a crew chief is not knowing what is going to happen,” King said. “You can prepare for a shift, but you never come to work knowing exactly what you are going to be doing. Some people love it and some people hate it. I think society, as a whole, likes routines—that is human nature.

Editor's note: The original story can be viewed on the Holloman Air Force Base website.