LITTLE ROCK AIR FORCE BASE, Ark. --
Due to the recent COVID-19 pandemic, the 189th Airlift Wing’s innovation skyrocketed to keep the flying training mission going. The Aircrew Flight Equipment section recently made more than 200 masks to assist C-130H aircrew in their flying, cutting, sewing and fitting masks for each flyer.
Learning the basic sewing skill in technical school, AFE technicians typically use this skill to repair items on the aircraft such as insulation, paneling, seat cushions, drop chutes and other items necessary to the success of each flight.
“We’ve made a lot of masks,” said Senior Master Sgt. Kente Reed, the 189th Operations Group AFE superintendent. “We plan on making as many as needed, to ensure each aircrew member and the student is issued a mask before their flight. As the superintendent, I was involved with the coordination and communication portion of this.
The team collaborated to find a good solution for the new face mask requirement. Before successfully completing their product, they brainstormed to find the perfect solution for our Guardsmen.
Reed explained the initial hurdle was finding material for the masks and ensuring the were compatible with the aircrew’s required communication and safety devices while in flight.
“We don’t have a requirement for this material when repairing aircraft covers, insulation, etc.,” Reed explained. “The main hurdle was getting the right specifications so the masks would fit and suffice for our aircrew while flying the mission. We used existing masks used by civilians as a starting point, and eventually received guidance from AETC on recommended specs and materials to use.”
The AFE crew is closely monitoring and taking feedback from aircrew members on the mask fit, comfortability and quality of communication while wearing the masks and performing in-flight duties.
I hope that we have helped in some way or another, even if it’s just taking away one stress-related concern of finding a mask to wear while we as a unit continue our mission and figure out the next steps to take during this pandemic,” Reed said. “We are placing an emphasis on being ready to help out whenever we may be called upon. We in AFE, are humbled that we were able to assist in this time of need.”