By Army Pfc. Cody A. Thompson
Special to American Forces Press Service
Sept. 29, 2009 - Before they can take off or land, pilots here need to know their aircraft's condition and whether dangers could arise from bad weather, broken equipment or potential attacks. Airmen in the 4th Maintenance Operations Center, made up of units from seven states, ensure aircraft here are logged, maintained and ready for time-sensitive takeoffs and landings.
"We compile all of the information from takeoffs, landings, weather conditions and maintenance status into a centralized location," said Air Force Staff Sgt. Timothy Woller, senior controller with the 455th Equipment Maintenance Group. The information enables commanders and aircrews to view the history of past and current flight plans, as well as potential problems, he explained.
In conjunction with pilots, the center's airmen can categorize the extent of any aircraft damage using several codes.
"The pilots communicate to us the status of their aircraft," said Air Force Senior Master Sgt. Donald Seymore, a C-130 controller with the 136th Maintenance Squadron from Naval Air Station Joint Reserve Base Fort Worth, Texas. The status can range from no mechanical problems to minor mechanical problems that don't preclude flight to major mechanical problems that will not allow the plane to fly, Seymore explained.
The maintenance operations center has sections that deal with F-15 Eagle and F-16 Fighting Falcon fighter jets and C-130 Hercules transport aircraft. The senior controller collects and logs data while keeping flight crews and commanders informed of conditions. Part of this is making sure airdrop cargo gets to its destination.
"Airdrops have to be at the right place at the right time," said Air Force Senior Master Sgt. Christopher Cobb, a C-130 controller with the 152nd Maintenance Squadron. "Beans, bullets, whatever they need to do their job and, hopefully, get them home."
Before flight crews can deliver equipment to forward operating bases, they go through the maintenance operations center to create an effective flight plan.
"We monitor maintenance status of all aircraft, land times, and even the next projected time for an engine oil analysis," said Air Force Staff Sgt. Erick R. Davis, an F-15 controller with the 455th Expeditionary Maintenance Group. "We are the main hub of the flightline."
This hub of controllers enables commanders to create plans according to the data presented to them. The information gathered is taken to a weekly briefing for Air Force Brig. Gen. Steven Kwast, 455th Air Expeditionary Wing commander, Woller said. After the briefing, he added, commanders are able to keep track of the tools at their command and initiate effective missions.
"Our MOC is the linchpin in this effort to provide security to the Afghan people," Kwast said. "Without the tireless work of these airmen, we couldn't maintain 100 percent accountability of our aircraft and launch all available assets to provide security for the Afghan people and our coalition forces. Their efforts are crucial to this fight."
(Army Pfc. Cody A. Thompson serves with the 40th Public Affairs Detachment.)