pilot must eject from his aircraft and parachute to the ground, he
builds a fire, drinks water and signals for rescue using the
survival kit provided by the life-support unit at home base. The
life-support unit here ensures all aircrews receive the best
life-support equipment for flights and emergency situations, said
Tech. Sgt. Scott Schmidt, life-support superintendent.
"If pilots need to eject from the aircraft, life support
provides the equipment to safely get them to the ground and
survival gear to help keep them alive until they are rescued,"
Schmidt said. Typical survival equipment includes water, food
rations, fishing kits, flares, radio, compass, mirror, glow sticks
and fire starters.
"The equipment inside a survival bag really depends on where you
are," Schmidt said. "For example, pilots in desert areas would have
a lot more water in their survival bags." Along with building and
maintaining survival kits, life-support instructors provide pilots
with annual refresher training courses to ensure they remember how
to use the equipment.
"This keeps the information fresh in their (minds) in case they
get in an emergency situation," said Schmidt. With about 400
students going through pilot training here yearly, plus a cadre of
around 400 instructor pilots, life-support workers strive to ensure
each pilot has all equipment in tip-top shape, said Senior Airman
Joseph Hale, a life-support technician.
"All new student pilots here are fitted with a custom built
helmet and oxygen mask," he said. Along with those items,
technicians also ensure each pilot's "G-suit," a pressurized
gravitational harness pilots use in high-performance aircraft, fits
properly and is in perfect working condition. The suits have to
withstand certain pressures to remain intact for pilots to survive,
"It keeps blood where it needs to be so the pilot doesn't lose
consciousness," he said. Last year, the life-support team conducted
about 35,000 regular equipment inspections. Adding support to the
T-6 Texan crews, the team expects to top 40,000 inspections this
"Our mission is so big here," Schmidt said. "We
work hard and do an immense amount of work to support the pilots.
In one day, one worker will do as much work here as an entire shop
at most other bases." With about 300 sorties per day, the
life-support technicians work hard to ensure pilot safety.
"Their life is our business," said Hale. [ANN Thanks Airman 1st
Class Yvonne Conde, 47th Flying Training Wing Public Affairs]