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AFECT Airmen teach flyers how to survive

  • Published
  • By Senior Airman Grace Lee
  • 56th Fighter Wing Public Affairs

Flying a fighter jet requires hours upon hours of rigorous training preparing pilots for a multitude of battle scenarios, but there are some potentially fatal circumstances that can't be foreseen or avoided, such as bird strikes, engine failure or other mechanical problems leaving the pilot with little time to respond.

Such a scenario happened to a Luke Air Force Base student pilot, and without the training given by the aircrew flight equipment continuation training instructors, the pilot may not have known what to do when the aircraft was making its descent.

"We train all Luke AFB pilots as well as civilians who will be flying familiarization or orientation flights," said Staff Sgt. Branden Rowe, 56th Operations Support Squadron AFECT NCO in-charge. "The training we give is so important that Luke student pilots cannot fly a jet without taking our class first, and thereafter they are required to take the course every 60 days, while instructor pilots accomplish the training annually."

AFECT instructors cover a wide range of subjects and scenarios during the class, from how to safely exit the aircraft in case of an emergency to correctly ejecting out of the jet and more.

"The first thing we teach the students is about the G-suit or flight suit and helmet," said Senior Airman Kyle Green, 56th OSS AFECT instructor. "We like to familiarize the students with the G-suit, how it should fit and show the students how to properly put on and take off a helmet, and ways to get fresh oxygen into the breathing mask portion just in case their oxygen supply is cut off."

Students are taught how to put on a torso harness, which attaches directly to the jet's parachute. Students then practice getting in and out of a jet in addition to other procedures with the ejection procedure trainer. "The EPT essentially is a realistic mockup of the inside of an F-16, which allows the students to actually go through the motions of strapping in and quickly unstrapping themselves in case of an emergency," Rowe said. "We also cover how to use some of the  

buttons on the aircraft, as well as the ejection lever, and getting into the proper body position in case they have to bail out or eject from the aircraft."  

In case students need to deploy a parachute, instructors also cover post-ejection procedures.  

"Once the student deploys a parachute, the first thing we teach them is what a good 'canopy' or parachute looks like and if it isn't looking good, we teach them how to fix each malfunction accordingly, in addition to ensuring they lift their visor up and remove their mask," Rowe said. "Next we teach them how to steer the parachute into a safe landing area and if they are landing on water, how to access their seat kit, which includes a raft and survival material."  

Students practice fixing parachute malfunctions in addition to steering and landing with a parachute using a parachute simulator.  

"We hook the students up with all the gear they would be wearing and have them put on helmets with special visors to simulate where they would land," Green said.  

Additionally, students learn about the survival components such as how to get a transmission out with a beacon and use the radio. The survival kit items include a flare, compass, fishing line, packets of water and more.  

"In case they are not found within a few hours and need to survive, we teach them how to build a shelter, make a trap or snare, what animals and plants are good to eat and what aren't, and how to procure water," Rowe said. "We have real snakes, tarantulas and scorpions to show students what they look like in case they've never seen them."  

The AFECT class is mandatory for pilots and passengers alike for good reason.  

"We are essential to Luke's flying mission because a piece of equipment isn't going to do a pilot any good if he doesn't know how to use it," Green said. "It's also important to teach them how to use the equipment properly, giving them visuals and letting them do it themselves, so they can get good muscle memory in case they do need to react quickly."