New Mexico maintainers keep the future of the Air Force in the sky

  • Published
  • By Airman 1st Class Leah Ferrante
  • 49th Wing Public Affairs
Recently, the mission here has transformed from projecting combat airpower to training the next generation of combat pilots and among its many aircraft, Holloman Air Force Base is the premier training base for the MQ-1B Predator and the MQ-9 Reaper.

The unmanned remotely piloted aircraft, or RPA, fill the skies of the Tularosa Basin daily, executing training missions. With more than 200 flying hours weekly, the importance of keeping the aircraft safe is a high priority, and no one understands that better than the Airmen of the 49th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron.

The Airmen thoroughly inspect each part of the aircraft before takeoff and after landing, looking for any discrepancies that could interfere with the proper operation and safety of the aircraft.

"We check every part of the aircraft, from the wings to the engines and tires. It's basically like taking your car for a tune-up," said Senior Airman Courtlyn Collier, a 49th AMXS crew chief. "Once a plane lands, you'll see a lot of crew chiefs, avionics and weapons (Airmen) starting inspections."

Inspections are performed based on different qualifying factors, including total hours flown and discrepancies noticed or reported during training sorties. Additional inspections are completed on various milestones including 200, 400, 800 and 2,000 hours of flight time. Each inspection is increasingly more in-depth as the flight hours rise.

"There's a lot of interval inspection on this aircraft," said Staff Sgt. Aldwin Del Rosario, a 49th AMXS avionics specialist. "There's a lot more to this aircraft than just removing a panel, and some nuts and bolts. Whatever you work on is being utilized to make the mission happen."

Up to nine people will work on an aircraft at one time, each responsible for different systems. When it comes down to the wire, teamwork is a critical.

"Teamwork plays a good role, when we work together we can knock out a 400 hour inspection in one shift, and have that aircraft ready to go again," Collier said.

A thorough knowledge of the Reaper is required in order to keep the aircraft flying. Holloman AFB has the important mission of preparing Airmen with the knowledge and skills necessary to deploy worldwide at a moment’s notice, to effectively and efficiently perform their duties.

"They fly and perform numerous missions," Del Rosario said. “It's nice to see that what we're working on is being used for the bigger mission.”

The Reaper is an armed, multi-mission, medium-altitude, long-endurance RPA that is used primarily as an intelligence-collection asset. Reapers also perform missions supporting close air support, combat search and rescue, convoy over watch, and target development. The MQ-9's capabilities make it uniquely qualified to conduct warfare operations in support of the deployed commander's objectives.

"The MQ-9 aircraft is definitely the future for the Air Force," Collier said.