CREECH AIR FORCE BASE, Nevada --
The remotely piloted aircraft has landed, but there’s still work to be done.
After the launch and recovery element lands the RPA, they taxi it off the runway and in to a hangar, where the maintenance Airmen get right to work.
“Post-flight we do any scheduled maintenance for the aircraft and change any parts that need to be replaced if they are broken, or if the manufacturer has deemed it necessary to change at a specific allotted time,” said Staff Sgt. Matthew, 432nd Aircraft Maintenance Squadron MQ-1 Predator crew chief. “We also refuel the aircraft with the required amount for the next mission.”
If a panel is suspected of having damage after flight or a hard landing, the non-destructive inspection shop can use different methods of examining the panels to determine if the panel needs repair.
Our job as NDI is to inspect aircraft for damages and ensure parts are fully functional,” said Senior Airman Jacob, 432nd Maintenance Squadron NDI journeyman. “We do this through different methods such as liquid penetrate, magnetic particle, radiation, eddy current, oil analysis, ultrasound, and laser shearography.
According to Jacob, there is no one best method. The methods used depend on various factors such as the dimensions of the part, type of metal, and more.
If a defect is found within the aircrafts panels, the aircraft structural maintenance shop will get involved to fix them.
"If an MQ-1 or MQ-9 had a structural flaw caused by wear and tear, moisture absorption or any way of structurally damaging the aircraft, it would eventually, depending on the damage, become structurally unsound and not airworthy,” said Tech. Sgt. Daniel 432nd Maintenance Squadron aircraft structural maintenance craftsman. “If we discover these flaws we can fabricate and repair the skin and structure of the aircraft.”
While the aircraft is being prepared for the next mission, Airmen from the intelligence career fields file reports on the completed mission.
“There’s a post-flight debriefing where intelligence personnel archive all the data with a mission report,” said Senior Airman Aaron, 432nd Wing/432nd Air Expeditionary Wing intelligence evaluator. “We go over everything that went well, anything that changed, and any lessons we learned.”
After the briefings, intelligence will also file the report in an archive.
With the mission completed and the aircraft prepped for the next flight, the RPA enterprise can begin to fly the next mission.
Air Force leadership continues to praise and thank the Airmen for what they do, knowing their role is vital to providing global RPA capabilities.
During a visit to Creech AFB, the commander of Air Combat Command, reassured what everyone in the MQ-1 and MQ-9 community does is important for whole world.
"You don't always see it ... But I guarantee you that what you do changes lives," said Gen. Hawk Carlisle, ACC. "It changes the world and it defends what our nation stands for, which is a beacon of hope throughout this world."