MOODY AIR FORCE BASE --
One may think it’s hard to remember when to change the oil in their car, but imagine having over 100 cars to maintain.
This is the case for the 23d Maintenance Operations Flight schedulers who maintain a stable calendar of repairs and upkeep required for the fleet of aircraft on Moody’s flightline.
“We manage the health of the fleet in terms of scheduling maintenance and picking the appropriate airplanes for certain missions,” said U.S. Air Force Tech. Sgt. Albert Turner, 23d MOF plans and scheduling section chief. “As a whole, we probably do the planning of about 4,000 maintenance events a month.”
Schedulers are required by Air Force Instruction to create schedules as far as a year in advance. This is no small task considering Moody is home to more than 100 aircraft between the HC-130J Combat King IIs, A-10C Thunderbolt IIs, HH-60G Pavehawks and the A-29 Super Tucanos.
One also has to take into consideration the number of diverse units keeping the aircraft operational through routine and timely maintenance.
“Engineers said ‘after a certain amount of time, this part can fail,’ and with that part failing, the airplane can potentially fall out of the sky,” said Turner. “It takes a lot of different shops to accomplish everything on our weekly schedule, including: engines, weapons, crew chiefs, pilots, [and] down the line.”
According to Airman 1st Class Kyle Adams, 23d MOF scheduler, this is when he’s mixing computer organization programs and an abundance of phone calls to create a rough draft of the schedule for a week into the future.
“Then, the Airman building that [schedule] has to go to the aircraft maintenance unit and go over the [schedule] with the superintendent, a master sergeant who runs the flightline, and he has something else in mind [for the schedule],” said Turner. "So at that point, you’re [coordinating] with production, who are the aircraft maintainers, and if you give a little, they’ll give a little and you have to tweak the schedule."
Turner added that this coordination from shop to shop is continued in meetings all the way up to the maintenance group commander.
“So now, you, production and the aircraft maintenance squadron have bought into this [schedule] and he may see some things that he doesn’t like,” said Turner. “So now you’re negotiating with the colonel going ‘hey this is how I want it, because this is what we envisioned,’ and a lot of times the colonel will sit back and say ‘alright, I got your point, let’s go ahead with it,’ but sometimes he may say ‘no I don’t want that, this is what I want.’”
Either way, they must quickly find a way to piece the puzzle together and present it to the wing commander as well. Turner said it can be hard to manage the many moving parts to a schedule.
“It gets stressful because at the end of the day if you miss something, that airplane could be grounded,” said Turner. “That’s a punch in the eye to us as schedulers if we drop the ball like that and I’m up there explaining to the group commander how we failed.”
Turner explained that failure to plan accordingly can be detrimental to this mission, and the Airmen. If no one’s tracking the timeline, the completion of maintenance and planned times for future maintenance, Moody could quickly find itself with no aircraft in the air.
“I’ve seen it before at other bases, the whole fleet has been grounded because a time-compliance technical order wasn’t completed or time-change items weren’t tracked properly because of bad scheduling practices,” said Turner.
Grounding a whole fleet due to one person’s negligence is a real low, but Turner and Adams agree that it is definitely a feel-good moment when everything comes together perfectly.
“When we launched [aircraft] to Turkey and Europe, we prepped 30 [aircraft],” said Turner. “I’ve never been a part of anything that large, it was insane. Just seeing and hearing them take off, [knowing] all the forms are good, all the inspections, time changes, time-compliance technical orders, everything was spot on. It was like ‘yeah! We did that, we did a good job with that.’”
“To see [our aircraft] out there in theater doing what they’re supposed to do and just [have] a smooth deployment in terms of scheduled maintenance,” said Turner. “That’s the best part about it.”
While it can sometimes be a time-pressed, stressful duty Adams says, the rewards are worth the struggle.
“It’s fulfilling knowing that all the aircraft and the pilots are going up there safe and everything is going as planned,” said Adams. “Every day [without] a problem is a good day.”