33rd FW Crew Chiefs Advance with F-35
As the Air Force continues to develop their
newest fighter jet, the F-35 Lightning II, the 33rd Fighter Wing
ensures the Airmen tasked with taking care of it receive the training
they need to advance with it.
Crew chiefs, who have worked alongside the
F-35 since its production, have transformed into a new breed of
maintainer capable of navigating the upgrades a 5th generation fighter
jet will go through.
A crew chiefs job starts early as they prepare jets for the first sortie of the day at 7 a.m. Throughout the day, these Airmen maintain the mechanical integrity of the plane before and after sorties. Unlike other maintainers, crew chiefs perform routine and preventative maintenance on the entire aircraft, as opposed to focusing on a particular system or subsystem. On the flightline, it's these Airmen's job to guarantee everything on the aircraft is upheld according to exacting standards to keep pilots safe while flying.
"When I'm out on the flightline, I make sure I know -- confidently -- the jet is going to come back," said Airman 1st Class Emily Peil, 33rd Aircraft Maintenance Squadron crew chief. "[The pilot] takes the chance and trusts me to get them back. It is a necessity we don't lose jets out in the field."
Crew chiefs at the 33rd FW were introduced to the F-35 in 2011 and have worked with the jets development to train on the technological advancements the fifth-generation fighter offers.
With aerodynamic performance and advanced integrated avionics, the F-35 provides next-generation stealth, enhanced situational awareness and reduced vulnerability for the U.S. and its allies according to the Air Force F-35A factsheet.
The 33rd FW is home to more than 20 F-35A variants with close to 80 crew chiefs to maintain them. Crew chiefs have plenty of opportunities to interact with the new capabilities of these aircraft as the jets participate in more than 65 sorties a week, according to Senior Master Sgt. Ryan Edwards, 58th Aircraft Maintenance Unit superintendent.