NAVAL AIR STATION NORTH ISLAND, Calif. –
Before Fleet Readiness Center Southwest (FRCSW) flight line test pilots take to the air, the command’s artisans ensure the systems of the aircraft tested are safe and operate as designed.
The gear designated for the pilots and crew is also inspected prior to flight by the staff of the paraloft shop in Building 785.
The shop is manned by four Aircrew Survival Equipmentman (PR) sailors who track, update, inspect and test a variety of the aircrew’s equipment including life preservers, water bottles, radios, and medical kits.
The inspection and maintenance of aircrew vests are kept with a history card of the vest gear that includes the ordnance, harness, and pocket knife.
The shop also maintains some of the equipment in the aircraft like life rafts, seat pans and parachutes.
Gear inspections are conducted in 30, 90, 180, and 360-day intervals, depending on the equipment.
The 90-day inspection is a comprehensive gear assessment that covers helmets, harnesses and everything carried in the aircrew’s pockets.
Pilot flight suits, boots, and gloves are inspected on a 360-day interval. The shop provides any sewing repairs and modifications to flight suits or vests.
Equipment that is damaged or in need of repair like radios, life preservers and breathing bottles are sent to the intermediate level (I-level) for replacement.
The PRs also inspect the anti-gravity (G) suits exclusive to F/A-18 Hornet pilots.
The suits are connected to the aircraft and designed to inflate to compensate for gravity forces to prevent pilot unconsciousness.
G suits are inspected on a 90-day rotation and inflated to test for air leakage and a psi rating that doesn’t fall below .5 psi for a 30-second interval.
Also specific to the F/A-18 and tested is the Joint Helmet Mounted Cueing System (JHMCS).
The shop’s testing equipment connects to the hologram-like informational displays of the JHMCS that project velocity, pitch, weapons system status, and other data onto the pilot’s helmet visor.
PRs assigned to the paraloft shop must also be ordnance qualified because they handle and track the day and night flares stored in the vests of pilots.