Avionics: Flight keeps McChord’s C-17s safe, out of harm’s way while airborne

  • Published
  • By Tyler Hemstreet
  • 62nd Airlift Wing Public Affairs
The monotone automated voice that blares throughout the C-17 Globemaster III cockpit when a missile attack is imminent has the tendency to send shivers down the spines of pilots, loadmasters and anyone else in the airplane.

But not Airmen from the 62nd Maintenance Squadron's avionics flight.

"It's standard ops to us," said Staff Sgt. Thomas Snavely, 62nd MXS.

That's because the familiar voice signals to each member of the shop that everything within the system is working correctly.

The avionics flight plays an important role in keeping each of McChord's C-17s flying high and supporting global combat airlift.

The flight is split into two sections: electronic warfare and the avionics intermediate section. While electronic warfare section personnel visit the flightline daily in an effort to keep each aircraft's missile defense system operating smoothly, the intermediate section's Airmen stay in their building fixing line-replacement units, which work together to control the C-17's many flight functions.

Although the C-17 is used mainly for cargo transport and combat airdrops, each is equipped with missile warning and countermeasure defense systems, which work together to defend against enemy attacks.

The countermeasures systems are like having a car alarm in a real rough neighborhood, said Staff Sgt. Herman Rodriguez, 62nd MXS.

"You're just not going to fly over combat zones without [them]," he said.

"Pilots won't leave the ramp if their [countermeasures] system isn't operational," Sergeant Snavely said.

While the avionics intermediate section rarely sees the flightline, it serves an equally important mission.

There is an line replacement unit, or "black box", for many of the important functions on the aircraft -- including the flight controls, navigations, fuels and engine controls, said Master Sgt. Patrick Kelley, 62nd MXS Avionics Intermediate Section chief.

"Everything we work on is critical to the aircraft's safety," Sergeant Kelley said.

Just like the electronic warfare section, the avionics intermediate section is composed of active duty Airmen, civilians and Air Reserve Technicians.

Each time a pilot, maintainer or crew chief identifies a broken LRU, it is removed from the aircraft and brought to the shop. The shop's workers use troubleshooting computers and software to identify the problem and fix it. After it is fixed, it's sent back to supply -- but not before the part is cleaned up to look as if it's brand new.

The shop averages nearly 110 units per month, saving the Air Force an average of almost $1.2 million per month, Sergeant Kelley said.