AGE flight keeps Fairchild flying

Staff Sgt. Brandon Baltis, 92nd Aerospace Ground Equipment craftsman, looks over a nitrogen cart section July 19, 2017, at Fairchild Air Force Base, Washington. Nitrogen is commonly used in aircraft tires due to its low reactivity to heat and helps maintain tire pressure longer. (U.S. Air Force photo / Airman 1st Class Ryan Lackey)

Staff Sgt. Brandon Baltis, 92nd Aerospace Ground Equipment craftsman, looks over a nitrogen cart section July 19, 2017, at Fairchild Air Force Base, Washington. Nitrogen is commonly used in aircraft tires due to its low reactivity to heat and helps maintain tire pressure longer. (U.S. Air Force photo / Airman 1st Class Ryan Lackey)

Senior Airman Austin Ready, 92nd Aerospace Ground Equipment journeyman and Staff Sgt. Brandon Baltis, 92nd AGE craftsman, test the connections and fittings on a power generator cart July 19, 2017, at Fairchild Air Force Base, Washington. Powerful mobile generators are necessary to provide aircraft with enough power to cold-start its engines. (U.S. Air Force photo / Airman 1st Class Ryan Lackey)

Senior Airman Austin Ready, 92nd Aerospace Ground Equipment journeyman and Staff Sgt. Brandon Baltis, 92nd AGE craftsman, test the connections and fittings on a power generator cart July 19, 2017, at Fairchild Air Force Base, Washington. Powerful mobile generators are necessary to provide aircraft with enough power to cold-start its engines. (U.S. Air Force photo / Airman 1st Class Ryan Lackey)

The Aerospace Ground Equipment workshop is lined with equipment such as hydraulic carts, power generators, air compressors, nitrogen tank systems and mobile diagnostic units July 19, 2017, at Fairchild Air Force Base, Washington. All equipment used to service aircraft is maintained by AGE Airmen. (U.S. Air Force photo / Airman 1st Class Ryan Lackey)

The Aerospace Ground Equipment workshop is lined with equipment such as hydraulic carts, power generators, air compressors, nitrogen tank systems and mobile diagnostic units July 19, 2017, at Fairchild Air Force Base, Washington. All equipment used to service aircraft is maintained by AGE Airmen. (U.S. Air Force photo / Airman 1st Class Ryan Lackey)

Senior Airman Austin Ready, 92nd Aerospace Ground Equipment journeyman, inspects the hoses on a hydraulic cart July 19, 2017, at Fairchild Air Force Base, Washington. AGE flight conducts regular inspections of all equipment to ensure its continued reliability. (U.S. Air Force photo / Airman 1st Class Ryan Lackey)

Senior Airman Austin Ready, 92nd Aerospace Ground Equipment journeyman, inspects the hoses on a hydraulic cart July 19, 2017, at Fairchild Air Force Base, Washington. AGE flight conducts regular inspections of all equipment to ensure its continued reliability. (U.S. Air Force photo / Airman 1st Class Ryan Lackey)

Senior Airman Michael Smith, 141st AGE journeyman,  tightens a hydraulic-cart hose July 19, 2017, at Fairchild Air Force Base, Washington. Hydraulic carts are used to test and pressurize aircraft systems such as landing gear and boom pod hatches. (U.S. Air Force photo / Airman 1st Class Ryan Lackey)

Senior Airman Michael Smith, 141st AGE journeyman, tightens a hydraulic-cart hose July 19, 2017, at Fairchild Air Force Base, Washington. Hydraulic carts are used to test and pressurize aircraft systems such as landing gear and boom pod hatches. (U.S. Air Force photo / Airman 1st Class Ryan Lackey)

FAIRCHILD AIR FORCE BASE, Wash. -- With the Fairchild flightline dominated by KC-135 Stratotankers filling every corner, it can be easy to miss the people who keep the flightline running smoothly. However, it is these maintainers and their equipment that is the foundation of everything that occurs on the flight-line.

A fleet of smaller ground vehicles and equipment are needed to maintain aircraft between flights. To help keep maintenance efforts running like clock-work, mechanics of the 92nd Maintenance Squadron, Aerospace Ground Equipment flight work hard to maintain all of the equipment used by aircraft maintainers.

"Anything mechanical or electrical that is used to service aircraft passes through our shop," said Master Sgt. Steven Watson, 92nd MXS Aerospace Ground Equipment flight chief.

Military aircraft are impressive works of engineering, yet they are not self-sufficient machines. The KC-135 requires a ground crew to help clean, fuel, maintain and repair it. The aircraft is unable to start its own engines and requires specialized outboard equipment to kick-start them. None of those operations are possible without the support of AGE Airmen.

"We are mobile utilities on wheels," said Staff. Sgt. Brandon Baltis, 92nd MXS AGE craftsman. "We service over 75 types of equipment that ranges in size from a kitchen oven to an SUV … we do it all.”

AGE flight has extensive applications and operates with four sections: support, maintenance, inspection, and servicing, pick-up and delivery. The support section manages tools and parts for the maintenance section, which in turn conducts heavy mechanical work such as tire and engine changes. The inspection section ensures all equipment is operational and determines if something requires repairs. The servicing, pick-up and delivery section handles requests for equipment and manages its movement to and from the flight-line.

"We are the backbone of the flightline," Watson said. "Everything maintainers use to service an aircraft comes from us."

Many pieces of equipment currently used for servicing aircraft is aging, over 40 years old in some cases, but AGE Airmen are good at finding innovative solutions to keep equipment running like new.

"The manufacturers simply don't exist anymore for some older equipment, like our generator carts, which means less parts," Baltis said. "That makes us deal with repair procedures we're not trained for, so we have to get creative, like sending out some of our Airmen to train on rebuilding diesel engines, keeping them functional until new equipment is acquired."

AGE Airmen are commonly known for having a wealth of knowledge in several areas of expertise, such as diesel engines, electrical systems and hydraulics, much of which is learned on-the-job to meet the demands of the airfield and the mission.

"AGE airmen have been called the last ‘true mechanics’ of the Air Force," Watson said. "A fitting title, as you have to be a jack-of-all-trades to do this job."

AGE flight has a crew of nearly 40 Airmen that operate 24/7 in shifts alongside other maintainers, ensuring ground crews have the equipment needed to keep Fairchild aircraft able to fly.

"We adapt as best we can with the equipment we have,” Baltis said. “We are always busy and juggling the workload can be a challenge at the best of times, but our Airmen have always delivered.”

Maintainer’s jobs to service aircraft would be infinitely more difficult without AGE Airmen repairing the tools needed to keep aircraft flying, enabling Fairchild to continue its mission to deliver rapid global mobility … now.