Assuring maintenance quality for the RPA mission
By Senior Airman Christian Clausen, 432nd Wing/432nd Air Expeditionary Wing Public Affairs
/ Published May 10, 2016
CREECH AIR FORCE BASE, Nev. (AFNS) -- Quality assurance Airmen in the maintenance world are known by many titles -- the “best of the best,” the “eyes and ears,” and even “sharks in the water” for their no nonsense attitudes toward maintenance.
No matter how they’re viewed, Airmen of the 432nd Maintenance Group QA shop are accountable for being knowledgeable and well-trained, enforcing standards, and inspecting all work performed on MQ-1 Predators and MQ-9 Reapers within the unit.
“As QA we’re responsible for the quality of maintenance and the personnel as far as their knowledge of the tasks they’re performing, maintenance and inspections,” said Master Sgt. Patrick, the 432nd MXG QA chief inspector. “We have 14 personnel and perform about 580 inspections a month.”
The workload is significant especially when Airmen are deployed, but more than that, everything that one maintainer repairs, upkeeps, or builds has to be examined.
“Everything is inspectable,” he said. “Processes, management programs, quality of maintenance, quality verification inspections and special inspections, which are everything they do, can all be inspected. We also ensure the crews have the proper tools and they’re maintained.”
Not only are the aircraft maintenance units inspected, QA evaluates other units who touch the aircraft as well. These units include munitions, aircraft structural maintenance, metals technology, nondestructive inspection, ground control stations, and support shops.
The attention to detail that QA Airmen must have is essential to completing the mission. Missing minor mistakes or maintenance errors can result in serious damage to aircraft and personnel.
“We produce a product, in this case, (aircraft) sorties, just like any other company produces a product,” Patrick said. “If we didn’t have anyone to ensure our product was of the highest quality, the potential would be that every once in a while we could put out a bad product.”
A “bad product” in terms of aircraft maintenance could mean anything from aircraft mishaps, which would be a danger to those near the aircraft or potential multimillion dollar damage to the aircraft.
“Since we don’t belong to the units themselves, we can take an unbiased look at the maintenance being performed,” said Tech. Sgt. Bryan, of the 432nd MXG technical order distribution office. “There’s so much Airmen have to remember when it comes to aircraft maintenance as far as regulations, technical orders, and data.”
Airmen who performed the maintenance may think everything is correct; however, QA is there to double-check and ensure sorties produced by Creech AFB are of the highest quality to meet the requirements of training and support the needs of the combatant commanders.
“Without us, I think there would be difficulties,” Bryan said. “People may think they could cut corners and not follow the technical data, and if steps get skipped it could be disastrous.”
Creech maintainers yield an average QA inspection success rate of 96 percent. This rate exceeds both Air Combat Command’s standard rate of 80 percent and the 432nd MXG’s 85 percent standard rate.
To become a QA inspector, Airmen must meet specific requirements.
“A QA inspector should be the best of the best and the subject matter expert in their assigned Air Force specialty code,” Perry said. “They know everything and have experience on the aircraft. They also can’t have bad performance reports or physical training test failures. We only take the best of the best.”
Even though inspecting all maintenance as well as being responsible for knowing all technical orders and regulations can be difficult, it’s still a great assignment.
“The best part of the job is knowing that you’ve been identified as the best of the best,” Perry said. “We’re the last defense between perfect maintenance and a mistake that could take a plane down.”