BEALE AIR FORCE BASE, Calif. --
When a plane goes down, an egress seat keeps pilots from going down with it. Ejecting from an egress seat is not something a pilot wants to do, but it is something they have to do in case of an emergency where everything else in an aircraft fails. It is their last chance at survival, and their lives rest on the hands of aircrew egress system specialists.
These professionals make sure all aircraft egress systems at Beale are properly functioning.
“We inspect and maintain around 40 egress systems from U-2s, TU-2s, and T-38s,” said Staff Sgt. Cody Clark, 9th Maintenance Squadron aircrew egress craftsman.
Being responsible for inspecting and maintaining around 40 egress systems from these different aircraft keeps the aircrew egress shop busy.
“We try to schedule anywhere from two to three seats in a typical week,” said Staff Sgt. Clark, “and that’s not including unscheduled maintenance that could pop up and that could be anywhere from zero to five.”
Knowing that a life is on the line if something isn’t done right puts a lot of pressure on Airmen working on egress systems.
“It’s important that I do my job right because if I don’t do my job properly and a pilot does eject he could die and that’s on me, then I’d have to live knowing that there’s a guy who lost his life because I didn’t do my job right,” said Senior Airmen Steven Phelps, 9th Maintenance Squadron aircrew egress journeyman.
For aircrew egress systems Airmen, there is no margin for error. Airmen at the egress shop rely on each other to make sure the job gets done and the lives of pilots are potentially saved.
“It’s a bit scary knowing that a pilot’s life is at stake,” said Staff Sgt. Clark. “But I feel overall confident knowing that our crew executed everything perfectly because we do not settle for anything less than perfection.”