166th Maintenance Operations Flight: Behind the curtain work the wizards of wing operations

  • Published
  • By Mr. Mitch Topal
  • 166th Airlift Wing Public Affairs

(Editor’s note: This is part one in a series, The Wing Beneath Our Wing, stories of our 166th Maintenance Group Airmen. 

The gatekeepers of wing operations, the MOF manages every detail of aircraft maintenance, operations and training. From coordinating fuel to propulsion to parts, the MOF directs the planning, scheduling and maintenance of our eight C-130H2 aircraft. Using the Maintenance Information System (GO81), every rivet, wire, tire and flier is traced, logged and bird-dogged by highly trained technicians who analyze all data input to ensure 100% accuracy.

A data-driven approach is mission critical to anticipating and solving maintenance problems. Therefore, the MOF is structured such that all aspects of flightline operations can be monitored by Airmen whose Air Force Specialty Codes (AFSC) are mission-specific.

First, there is the Maintenance Operations Center (MOC) – the centerline for maintenance communication – who track all the back shops, weather conditions and airworthiness of the aircraft.

“We pretty much need to know what’s going on at the flightline at all times to keep higher leadership involved and to keep stats and track of everything,” said Staff Sgt. Zachary Knotts, 166th Maintenance Operations Flight Production Controller.

“We make sure aircraft are airworthy, we communicate with all of maintenance to make sure that we can meet the flying schedule,” explained Senior Airman Timothy Townsend, 166th Maintenance Operations Flight Production Controller.

Next, there is the Maintenance Management Analyst Section. These analysts use the GO81 system, as well as Excel and PowerPoint to track flights, aborts, and the equipment and education needed to minimize mission-hindering glitches.

“From the analysis that we supply you can see trends on what departments or what sections need the most assistance.” Staff Sgt. Durell Hamilton, 166th Maintenance Flight maintenance analyst. “If the ratio of actual flights to scheduled flights is low, we can figure out which departments need more education, more equipment or more maintenance. It’s all data driven.”

“We also turn that data into a presentable format to give leadership an easy representation of what’s going on in the 166th Maintenance Group,” said Tech. Sgt. Mike Krantz, 166th Maintenance Flight Maintenance Analyst.

Then there are the production schedulers who track and monitor all the Time Compliance Technical Orders (TCTOs), schedule all regular and depot-level maintenance and inspections, and act as the curators of the wing’s historical maintenance records.

“There are a total of about 80 time change items and inspections that come due at different points in time,” said Tech. Sgt. Briana Walker, 166 Maintenance Flight Production Scheduler.  “If they’re not completed on schedule, they can ground a plane. That’s one of the most important things we do here. Everything has a clock. We coordinate with the 166th Operations Group, build their flying schedule and determine which planes can meet those missions. We’re the ones who decide which planes are going to go up.”

“This by far – and this is coming from an ex-crew chief who worked on the planes – is the hardest job in the Maintenance Group,” said Staff Sgt. Taylor Conyers, 166th Maintenance Flight production scheduler “It is a non-stop maximum effort.”

With hyper-specific AFSCs comes specialized training. At the behest of group commander Lt. Col. William Roche, Master Sgt. Kevin McDermott, 166th Maintenance Flight training manager is in charge of developing the training program for over 200 people in the 166th Maintenance Group.

“I’m making sure everyone is getting their skill level,” said McDermott.”  Whether it be their initial skills schools, their weight and balance  school, work-specific like crash recovery courses, or for engine run courses where they need to be qualified to run the aircraft engines out there,”

One of the greatest challenges facing McDermott is the limited availability of seats for each course. “We have to compete with big Air Force for the same seats,” he explained. “And the guard gets closed out pretty quickly, which can be frustrating for the Airmen.”

In addition, costs must be managed and accounted for. With responsibility for all Operations and Maintenance, including flying hour funds, Malcom “Mo” Harward (civ) is the maintenance complex resource advisor budget analyst. He approves unit Defense Travel System authorizations, reviews and approves Air National Guard Reserve Order Writing System (AROWS) orders, and acts as the wing’s refuel document control officer.

Though a civilian, Harward is no stranger to Air Force operations. He worked as an active-duty crew chief on C-5s and 141s at Travis AFB, and had deployments in the Gulf War, Rhein-Main, Germany, Panama and Honduras. “I think it’s a very rewarding job. I worked as a crew chief here. I worked in the MOC for 12 years before I came over as the resource advisor. . When I came over to the MOF, I got an idea of the bigger picture, of everything that’s involved,” said Harward.

The work of the MOF distills down to ensuring the aircraft and personnel are mission-ready at all times. MSgt Brian Whitt, Unit Deployment Manager explains, “We make sure the people who are deploying have the equipment and the training they need. On a daily basis it’s a lot of computer work. It’s part of the UTC which lists all the equipment and training required for deployment, some of it specific to our C-130H2 aircraft. I use three different systems to provide reports to our commanders that are due around the 15th of every month.”

Finally, the MOF superintendent is Chief Master Sgt. James Gilbert. A hands-on manager, he gives his Airmen assistance by teaching, training and mentoring them. “The most rewarding part of my job is the people that work for me,” said Gilbert. “I think we have a great team in the MOF; men and women who really care about their jobs. They come to work, they know what they’re doing and like what they’re doing.”

The dedicated personnel assigned to the MOF get the job done through laser-like focus and attention to detail. They keep our C-130H2 aircraft flying by ensuring that no maintenance-related detail is overlooked. Their data-driven approach provides for a level of predictive analytics that enables the MOF to anticipate and resolve issues, keeping the aircraft off the ground, in the air, and mission-ready.