September 9, 2011 (by SrA Tracie Forte) - A group of Airmen here have saved 25 lives in the past 16 years by taking care of a critical F-16 Fighting Falcon component.
SSgts. Richard Simmons and Stanley Houser guide an ACES II ejection seat into an F-16 as SSgt. Joseph Newton manipulates an overhead hoist in hanger 431 on September 6th, 2011. Simmons, Houser and Newton are egress technicians with the 56th Component Maintenance Squadron.
The 56th Component Maintenance Squadron egress shop has saved 25 lives by keeping F-16 ejection systems ready for action.
"We are the guys that allow the systems to work," said Airman 1st Class Jeremy Pettigrew, 56th CMS aircrew egress systems journeyman. "If all else fails, the seat will get you out."
The shop's mission is to maintain, modify, inspect and correct any deficiencies on the F-16 Advanced Concept Ejection System II, said Tech. Sgt. Christian Ritenour, 56th CMS egress section chief.
The ACES II is a zero altitude, zero airspeed ejection seat. This means that the seat is capable of deploying in less than two seconds when an aircraft is static on the ground. These seats are also used in the A-10 Thunderbolt, F-15 Eagle, and B-2 Spirit aircraft.
Luke's egress shop consists of more than 30 military and civilian personnel working four different shifts, to include a rotating weekend duty crew, who work on more than 170 ejection seats in the more than 120 F-16s stationed here. Each component of the shop (support, flightline and in-shop) work together to ensure the seats are operating properly.
The support section coordinates times of aircraft availability with the various maintenance squadrons. They also sign out equipment, like cranes, needed to lift seats from aircraft.
After the coordination has been completed, a three-man team is dispatched. This team inspects the ejection system and brings anything that needs to be fixed back to the shop.
These inspections include a 100 percent visual inspection every 30 days for each aircraft. On average, more than 20 aircraft go through the inspection per week.
"Every part of the seat is important," said Ritenour. "It is a redundant system, but if one part does not work, it has to rely on the backup."
Another part of the inspection process is a 36-month inspection. During this inspection, every part of the system is removed from the aircraft including the canopy, seat and railing.
The egress team inspects every explosive and checks the part's serial and lot numbers at this time to ensure everything is coded in the system correctly.
The in-shop section is then responsible for maintaining the seat and canopy, as well as performing inspections and time changes on the explosives. An aircraft ejection system can carry up to 125 explosive items, which must be replaced according to the manufacturer's specifications.
They will also tear down the seat to perform pull checks on all the mechanical linkages. This includes the emergency manual parachute deployment handle, ejection controls lock handle, and ejection handle.
Those seats have gotten individuals out, safely and effectively, saving lives and helping make it possible for Luke Airmen to continue their mission for more than 20 years.