Photo Information

Lance Cpl. Walter Rodriguez, a Marine All-Weather Fighter Attack Squadron 224 flight equipment technician, inspects the flight vest during routine maintenance at the the flight equipment section aboard the Air Station, Aug. 21.

Photo by Lance Cpl. Kris Daberkoe

Flight equipment Marines ensure pilot emergency survival

5 Sep 2012 | Lance Cpl. Kris Daberkoe Marine Corps Air Station Beaufort


Pilots climb aboard their F/A-18 Hornets knowing their emergen­cy equipment is main­tained by skilled flight equipment repair techni­cians.


The flight equipment section of each aircraft squadron is responsible for ensuring all aviators have all of their emer­gency equipment, it fits properly, and is in work­ing condition.


Flight equipment main­tenance technicians are responsible for altering and maintaining: para­chute harnesses, gravity suits, cold weather sur­vival gear, flight helmets and equipment carriers.


Each piece of equip­ment maintained by flight equipment techni­cians fills a different role in the survival of pilots during a flight and in the event of an emergency ejection.


A pilot once came in and thanked our section for helping to keep him alive after having to eject from his aircraft,” said Sgt. An­drew Emig, a Marine All- Weather Fighter Attack Squadron 224 flight equip­ment technician. “It may not happen often but the life of another Marine can rest in the integrity of the equip­ment we provide them.”


The harness-like sys­tem is comprised of an air bladder that inflates around the pilots limbs, pushing blood to the pi­lot’s brain. The suit keeps gravitational forces from interrupting blood flow to the brain, potentially causing the pilot to lose consciousness.


“I have a lot of faith in our gear,” said Capt. Michael Stroup, a VMFA(AW)-224 pilot. “There have been a lot of people, who have survived partially because of the gear.


Flight equipment ex­perts take the measure­ments of each pilot and ensures that the air blad­ders are positioned cor­rectly on the pilots bodies while inflated.


“Within every 365 day period every piece of gear that each pilot wears will be checked,” said Emig. “The most frequent piece of gear we check is the air mask.


“Every 30 days all 40 masks used by the pilots will be checked.”


Flight equipment such as the parachute harness, flight vest and gravity suits have fabric seams that the flight equipment Marines inspect and repair on a regular basis, said Lance Cpl. Walter Rodriguez, a VMFA(AW)-224 flight equipment technician.


“We do a little bit of everything,” said Rodri­guez. “To work with the flares we must have an ordnance qualification.


“We have to be familiar with the radios on the sur­vival vests and the little stuff that no one really looks at.”


The work of these Ma­rines saves lives. When Marine Corps aviators face an emergency, they do not face it alone; they have the hard work of maintenance Marines to count on.

“I have a lot of faith and trust in our guys because they go though all our gear and make sure it’s working,” said Stroup. “This equipment is here for us in case everything else goes wrong. It’s our last safety net.”