January 31, 2008 (by A1C Nora Anton) - The current temperature has been a bitter fluctuation between 0 and -30 degrees since the arrival of Eielson's newest F-16 Aggressor aircraft over the past week.
USAF F-16C block 30 #86-0290 from the 18th AS taxi's down Eielson's flight line for the very first time on January 20th, 2008.
However it's not stopping Iceman aircraft maintainers of the 354th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron, who are busy as ever doing routine maintenance on the new aircraft.
The 354th AMXS produces safe and reliable Aggressor aircraft in support of the 18th Aggressor Squadron; who in turn prepare the combat Air Force and joint and allied aircrews during exercises such as RED FLAG-Alaska.
The men and women of the 354th AMXS's 18th Aircraft Maintenance Unit have their work cut out for them; as soon as the Aggressors were received by Eielson from Kunsan AB, Korea, on Jan. 20, maintainers inspected each aircraft thoroughly through a basic post-flight inspection.
"This inspection is completed after every flight and consists of a visual examination of certain components, areas and systems," said Capt. Marisha Malik, 354th AMXS maintenance officer. "This inspection takes about two hours to complete, but if there are discrepancies it takes longer."
Crew chiefs, avionics systems technicians, weapons loaders, and the support section take part in the team effort to inspect the aircraft for broken, loose or missing fasteners, damage, corrosion and fluid leaks, chip detectors and oil servicing, electrical wiring and much more.
"This is paramount for safety of flight for the pilot as well as the aircraft" said Captain Malik.
The atlas-sized responsibility is something that most 23 year olds aren't exposed to (the average age of flightline workers at Eielson), said the captain. But their willingness and drive to excel shows we have some of the best Airmen in the world making sure our jets stay in the air and the lives of our pilots remain safe.
"So far everything is going well," said Captain Malik. "The obstacles we will need to overcome are the experience level of our maintainers, who will work on the different avionics systems on the new aircraft as opposed to the old aircraft. Also, to acclimate the aircraft to an arctic environment is a long and challenging process."
She said that due to extreme cold temperatures certain parts of the landing gear system will need to be replaced, which will take about five days per jet.
"These are some of the hardest-working professional Airmen on Eielson," she said. "Their duty hours are long and their dedication and commitment to the mission is unsurpassed."
Senior Airman Nate Mros, 18th AMU F-16 avionics systems journeyman, is currently going through Airman Leadership School and credits the use of flightline maintenance anecdotes by ALS instructors as a boost to his confidence.
"Whenever the ALS instructors mention the flightline [workers] in class, it's always a really positive message--they know it's important because without maintainers, there wouldn't be jets to fly and subsequently, not much of an Air Force," said Airman Mros.
"Realizing how important my line of work is gave me a new pride in my job--because sometimes it feels like we are overlooked," he said. "People see jets fly and they think about pilots or air traffic controllers, but they really don't put much thought into who is making sure those jets are safe to fly."