Quality assurance: Making sure it’s done right

  • Published
  • By Tech. Sgt. Marie Brown
  • U.S. Air Forces Central Command Public Affairs
Have you ever watched a movie, or professional wrestling, and find yourself rooting for the villain at the end?

Around the flightline, there’s a group of ‘bad guys’ that represent their career field’s most knowledgeable maintainers and make up the office known as quality assurance.

“We are the eyes and ears of the maintenance group commander,” said Senior Master Sgt. Roosevelt, the quality assurance chief. “We advise and provide him recommendations on the quality of maintenance in regards to everything that goes on in the maintenance group (MXG).”

With individuals from nine different organizations across three major commands (MAJCOM) throughout the Air Force, the QA teams are responsible for training and inspecting the maintainers here on six airframes.

“We make sure Airmen are completing their tasks safely and that it is done correctly the first time around,” said Tech. Sgt. Lawrence, an F-22 Raptor QA inspector. “We make sure they are using the technical data that is provided and the safety equipment they have been issued.”

We shouldn’t be the ones to come through and find anything wrong, everything should be perfect, Rucker added.

QA is comprised of every specialty within the maintenance group, including crew chiefs and the fabrication flight, and are responsible for performing inspections as well as maintaining every special maintenance program for the wing and group.

“We do what we call special inspections,” said Lawrence, currently deployed from Tyndall Air Force Base, Florida. “These are pretty much inspections that are done according to Air Combat Command’s Maintenance Standardization Evaluation Program.”

One type of inspection that QA performs is a key task listing (KTL), which are inspection items that have been deemed so important from a quality perspective that it is mandatory that QA looks at them either while they are being conducted or immediately upon completion. The MXG commander, the MAJCOM and the Air Force determine the items that are mandatory KTL items.

Despite an ever-increasing operational tempo, QA has not been significantly impacted by challenges in the performance of their job.

“It just requires us to be more vigilant,” said Roosevelt, currently deployed from Joint Base Langley-Eustis, Virginia. “We did increase the amount of inspections that we perform. So whether it is one sortie or three thousand sorties flown in a month, we are going to be here to make sure that quality maintenance is being conducted.”

Sometimes the outcome from an inspection may not always be what maintenance Airmen want, which is why QA Airmen are known as the ‘bad guys.’

“If we see something going wrong our job is pretty much to report it no matter how silly it is,” Lawrence said. “We can have the title all day long, a lot of people feel we have a fail quota but that is not the case. Many of us pride ourselves over our passes, not our fails.”

Aside from inspections, one of the special maintenance programs the QA Airmen maintains is the Chaffing Awareness Program. This is when an aircraft has been identified as having a line rubbing up against another line or a wire that might be rubbing up against another wire.

“When this happens we are mandated to do a 10 percent inspection to make sure it is not a fleet-wide problem here,” Roosevelt said. “If we do that one-time inspection and identify it is a fleet-wide problem, then it might be fleet wide within the Air Force. We will then send that information up to Air Mobility Command or ACC, and they will determine if they need to do an inspection across the Air Force.”

Since arrival, there has been one incident where the MAJCOM had to conduct a fleet wide one-time inspection, added Jones.

The scope of QA responsibilities is not just constrained to the immediate area.

“We are also responsible for the foreign object damage awareness and dropped object prevention program at two other locations in our area of responsibility,” Roosevelt said. “We run these programs for the vice wing commander against these other organizations.”

QA has definitely earned a reputation for taking care of business.

The QA team has conducted roughly a thousand more inspections than typically accomplished by past rotations; yet their time is not done. They have also advised and recommended eight one-time inspections to the MXG commander.

The team has also contributed to identifying over 400 QA honor roll individuals within the maintenance group that deserved to be recognized. Additionally, they have conducted classroom-style training for members of the expeditionary maintenance group.

“It’s not just about observing, evaluating or reporting (issues),” Roosevelt said. “It is also about finding out how we can make it better.”

Even the bad guys have soft spots.

“If I see something (bad) and I prevent it from happening, that is the most rewarding part of my job,” Lawrence said. “I know it is small and minute, but small things like that make me happy.”

So yes, sometimes it’s certainly OK (and encouraged) to root for the bad guys.

“At the end of the day, we make sure we have safe and reliable aircraft available for operations,” Roosevelt said. “Operations then conducts the missions that they are being tasked with by the air tasking order.”