August 27, 2013 (by Capt. Erin Dorrance) - When F-22 pilots walk out to their jets and take off flawlessly on any given day or night, it is thanks to 184 diligent maintainers who work around the clock to ensure Holloman's 24 F-22 Raptors are always in top-notch condition. And that is no easy task because of the complexity of the F-22 Raptor, which is America's most technologically advanced fighter.
An F-22 Raptor starts to lift up during its take-off from the runway at Holloman AFB on February 29th, 2013. Airmen across the base work together in an effort to ensure every aircraft is combat ready. [USAF photo by A1C. Daniel E. Liddicoet]
"The F-22 Raptor has 440,000 parts, and 850 miles of wiring, said Senior Master Sgt. Patrick Bailey, 7th Aircraft Maintenance Unit superintendent. "That is enough wires to stretch from Marietta, Georgia, to New York City," he said.
Aircraft maintainers not only need to know how to perform standard maintenance on the aircraft, but they are also required to operate and fix the intricate computer systems embedded within the aircraft.
One computer system that is a big asset to maintainers is the portable maintenance aid, which is a laptop that interconnects avionics, hydraulics, weapons, and propulsion systems to give crew chiefs a quick look at any issues with the aircraft. The PMA also helps maintenance personnel troubleshoot anything a pilot may write up as an issue after flying the aircraft.
"If a pilot writes up an issue, we will investigate it and fix it, no matter how small the issue may seem," said Senior Airman Christopher Essue, 49th AMXS crew chief, who has worked on F-22s for the past four years. "Every flicker of a screen or delay in a flight control is taken seriously because these write ups could result in major malfunctions down the road.
"I picked the F-22 because I wanted to work on the newest and greatest technology out there," said Airman Essue. "After seven months of intense maintenance training, I was sent to Holloman Air Force Base to begin maintaining F-22s, and I love it."
Airman Essue, as well as fellow 49th AMXS maintainers, are fortunate to work inside air-conditioned hangars which protect the aircraft from harsh weather and scorching temperatures. The hangars also provide shelter to the aircraft and maintainers from heavy winds carrying sand from White Sands National Monument located to the west of the base.
With every turn of a wrench, 49th AMXS maintainers are aware of the importance of their job to keep pilots safe while they fly F-22 jets. At the same time, F-22 pilots take the time to write up any and all issues with the jets because no issue it too small.
"I can say, without a doubt, in my 16 and half year career in the Air Force, have never seen a better, solid, more understanding relationship between maintenance and ops than I have seen here," said Lt. Col. Anthony Nance, former 49th AMXS commander. "You have to have that."
Editor's Note: This article is the third in a series of four articles featuring the F-22 Raptors at Holloman Air Force Base.