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End of runway checks ensure safe flying

  • Published
  • By Senior Airman Jeremy McGuffin
  • 18th Wing Public Affairs
A small group of Airmen with the 18th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron spend 12 hours a day at the end of the runway here for one primary purpose--to ensure F-15 Eagles get one final checkup before take off.

Even with Kadena Air Base in the middle of a local operational readiness exercise, these Airmen continue business as usual ensuring the safety of flight.

"In exercise conditions we do the same job as in real life situations," said Staff Sgt. Kevin Cumbie, 18th AMXS crew chief. "We just have to hustle more."

"If a plane shows up and we come under attack, most people have to duck and cover but we still go out in full MOPP [Mission Oriented Protective Posture] gear, if needed, to generate these aircraft and get them airborne," he said. 

That end of runway check, or EOR, is one final inspection to verify there is nothing wrong with the jet before it departs.

"If we do find something and can't deal with the problem here, we send it back to the chalks to be fixed," said Senior Airman Christopher Smith, 18th AMXS crew chief.

The EOR checkpoint is the final stop for generating aircraft about to fly on missions. If "enemies" are inbound, the F-15's need to be ready before takeoff.

"The hardest part of our job is knowing that even if we come under attack and bombs are going off around us, we can't just let the aircraft sit on the runway," said Staff Sgt. Zedrik Harbort, also a crew chief with the 18th AMXS. "The pilots are relying on us to make sure the aircraft is safe and weapons are armed so they can get off the ground."

The Airmen check the entire aircraft for any structural defects, or problems as it pulls up to the EOR, and engage any weapons it may be armed with.

"We do a visual inspection of the aircraft to make sure there are no malfunctions as they take off," said Sergeant Harbort. "We can't catch everything, but doing this check saves a lot of downtime for the aircraft if it were to go up with a faulty landing gear or screws that were not in tight enough."

Depending on the situation, these Airmen will see four to 30 aircraft within half an hour.

"It takes less than two minutes for us to marshal in the aircraft, check and send them to the runway," said Sergeant Harbort. "We take two jets at a time to increase generation of aircraft."

One person marshals the aircraft while another does the inspection.

"Once the inspector gives the thumbs up, it's the marshal's job to inform the pilot he's good to go and get them off the EOR checkpoint," said Airman Smith.

With this sort of responsibility, every Airman that works the EOR needs to be on top of their game so every pilot comes home safely.

"We don't want to get complacent and miss something," said Sergeant Harbort. "I would rather take a few extra minutes to do a thorough check, than worry about how hot it is or how hard it is to breathe in MOPP gear. We want to ensure that the jet is good to go and not have any problems arise."