News>Eglin Airman ensures precise packing of parachutes
U.S. Air Force Staff Sgt. Edwin Portan, 379th Expeditionary Operations Support Squadron, airs the BA-22 parachute canopy to ensure the materials are not intertwined together prior to repacking during an inspection May 17, 2012. Portan is the Non-commissioned officer in-charge, Air Crew Flight Equipment and is deployed from Eglin Air Force Base, Fla. (U.S. Air Force photo/Staff Sgt. Sheila deVera)
U.S. Air Force Staff Sgt. Edwin Portan, 379th Expeditionary Operations Support Squadron non-commissioned officer in-charge, prepares the BA-22 parachute to be repacked after conducting an inspection May 17, 2012. The inspection is to recertifies the life cycle of the parachute and must be 100% serviceable at all times. Portan is deployed from Eglin Air Force Base, Fla., and is a native of Los Angeles. (U.S. Air Force photo/Staff Sgt. Sheila deVera)
by Senior Airman Michael Charles
379th Air Expeditionary Wing Public Affairs
5/28/2012 - SOUTHWEST ASIA -- Today's aircraft are technological wonders, however, one piece of equipment is comparatively low-tech, yet absolutely vital - the parachute.
The 379th Expeditionary Operation Support Squadron parachute section makes sure that this essential piece of safety equipment is in tip-top condition should they be needed as a last resort.
Staff Sgt. Edwin Portan, 379th EOSS aircrew flight equipment parachute section NCO in charge spends countless hours preparing and inspecting parachutes in the event that a worst-case scenario should happen.
"You never know what could happen," said Portan, deployed from the 33rd Fighter Wing at Eglin Air Force Base, Fla. "It is important that all safety equipment that can potentially save the aircrew member's life works."
The parachute section provides support for two types of parachutes - the bailout parachute and the seat parachute, said Portan.
The bailout parachute is the more recognizable of the two having been part of nearly every action movie that contains an aircraft scene. It is contained in a backpack and used by the aircrew in the need to jump out of an aircraft.
The seat parachute is more common for fighter aircraft. This parachute is built into the seat of an aircraft and deploys after a pilot egresses through the canopy of an aircraft.
"Different parachutes have different functions," said Portan. "There is one common theme however, the necessity for both to work properly to ensure the safety of the aircrew."
Every day the parachute section receives numerous parachutes from throughout the region for routine inspections. Visual inspections of the outside layer of the parachutes are mandatory every 30 days.
During these inspections, a member of the aircraft's maintenance unit checks for tears and damage to the outer layer of the backpack holding the actual parachute. If they find a discrepancy, the parachute is immediately pulled from use and sent to the parachute section for a thorough evaluation.
"We don't take any chances with the safety of our aircrews," said Tech Sgt. Adam Liuzza, 379th EOSS B-1 aircrew flight equipment section NCO in charge. "If there is a possibility that one of our parachutes could be damaged in any way we immediately pull it from use."
Twice a year, the parachutes are taken apart and every part is thoroughly evaluated. Once taken apart, the 15-piece set is carefully inspected and repacked. The whole inspection process takes anywhere between two and three hours per parachute.
"Any little mistake can be life or death for the pilot," said Portan. "That is why we go with a slower but more efficient inspection of each parachute. We want to make sure that the parachute we inspect is capable of saving the pilot's life. Nothing is more important than that."
"We take our job very seriously," said Senior Airman Brent Afzal, 379th EOSS aircrew flight equipment parachute section technician. "These are essential tools needed for survival of our aircrew and they entrust us to provide these tools in the best possible condition."
The parachute section here also provides any needed parachute support for joint and coalition partners. Airmen in the parachute section are qualified to provide support for all parachutes in the military inventory and constantly do inspection on parachutes for unit throughout the region.
"We are helping people get to the fight," said Afzal. "You definitely have a sense of pride when you realize that the parachute you just packed is helping parajumpers accomplish their mission.
The dedication and attention to detail shown by members of the 379th EOSS parachute section is an indicator of the care that each aircrew equipment maintainer takes, said Portan.
"If all else fails these parachutes are the last thing the aircrew can rely on," said Portan. "They count on us to make sure that this vital life support equipment is always ready because they never know when or if they will need it."