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Hill AFB F-35 maintainers speed egress inspection and servicing

A photo of Staff Sgt. Cameron Westin working on an F-35A ejection seat

Staff Sgt. Cameron Weston, 388th Fighter Wing, works on the powered inertion reel device on the F-35A Lightning cockpit seat May 20, 2020 at Hill Air Force Base, Utah. (U.S. Air Force photo by Cynthia Griggs)

An Airman works on an F-35A canopy.

Tech. Sgt. Nicholas Westover with the 419th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron Egress Flight works on an F-35A canopy at Hill Air Force Base, Utah on Nov. 12, 2019. (U.S. Air Force photo by R. Nial Bradshaw)

Air Reserve Technician Tech. Sgt. Nicholas Westover is one of two maintainers helping aircraft availability numbers by decreasing downtime in the process for inspecting and servicing F-35A Lightning II seats as the first fully qualified Egress technicians at Hill Air Force Base, Utah.

Westover, assigned to 419th Maintenance Group, and 388th Maintenance Group Airman Staff Sgt. Cameron Weston are Team Hill’s first fully qualified Egress technicians.

In addition to routine inspections, every two years, the F-35A’s ejection seats are removed from the cockpits for servicing. Several highly-used components, like straps, buckles and pins are replaced. The seat and the related systems are inspected and the information entered into the Autonomic Logistics Information system.

“When we first got the jets, we had to have contractors come and remove and service the seats for this inspection process. Then, that information would get logged in the system by another set of contractors, and we’d have to wait for that system to reflect the update, which could cause delays,” said Capt. Kimberly Jackson, 388th Maintenance Squadron Operations Officer.

Now, maintainers have been trained to perform the entire process locally, including working in ALIS. As those Airmen perform work on each seat, they are training more Airmen on the process. It’s a win-win, said Jackson. And while taking on this task means a little more work for Airmen here, the results arealready noticeably improved.

Obviously, with no seat, it’s hard to fly an airplane. In the past, this process has taken up to two weeks, but maintainers have cut that time down to two days. By cutting the time it takes to get the aircraft back in rotation, they have increased the number of aircraft available for sorties as well as increased the opportunities for other maintenance training.

“This process improvement and increase in maintenance capability is just another example of how our Airmen continue to own the future,” said Col. Michael Miles, 388th Maintenance Group commander. “As the first combat-coded F-35A unit, we’re learning how best to sustain this airframe. We’re identifying solutions in the field that can be carried forward throughout the Air Force. It’s something all these Airmen and the program partners can be proud of.”