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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


    A wing and a prayer

    With recent plane crashes by a US Airways plane in New York’s Hudson River and an F18 Super Hornet in a neighborhood near San Diego’s Mirimar Air Force base being highly publicized, Davis-Monthan Air Force Base officials said their clean flight record should leave Tucson residents with nothing to fear.

    In October of 1978 a Davis-Monthan airplane crashed two blocks south of the UA, where the Student Recreation Center is now located, killing one student and injuring six others, according to Daily Wildcat archives.

    Theodore Coiner, a local pilot and chief of safety at Davis-Monthan, said the Air Force and military have a very strict airplane inspection process and if there is an accident, they form a safety investigation board and accident board, which gather all facts related to the aircraft.

    Immediately after an incident, they don’t really know what happened, so they go through a thorough investigation, Coiner said.

    “”They go ahead and analyze the aircraft’s maintenance records, to what the pilot had for breakfast, to his misdemeanor, if he had a fight with his wife – it’s a very meticulous process,”” he said.

    Richard Aerroyo said he has worked in vehicle maintenance at Davis-Monthan for 16 years, and said all planes are cared for meticulously in an effort to avoid accidents.

    “”We make sure that flights and vehicles are in tip-top shape so they can complete their mission,”” he said. “”Part of my duty is to help train airmen to work on vehicles and it is a very rewarding job.””

    When pilots show up to work, they follow the tradition of “”putting things in drawers”” as they call it, Coiner said.

    “”You might have things going on in your personal life – you blew a tire driving in to work or you got in a fight with someone – but once you get to work, all that is pushed aside in the drawer and 100 percent of mental thought is in flying that day,”” Coiner said.

    He said flying is 70 percent mental and 30 percent physical. Despite all of the flying incidents that have taken place this year, he said he is confident about the safe flight record of the Air Force.

    From the moment they arrive to work, they think about risk assessment and risk mitigation, Coiner said.

    “”It’s all about knowing exactly what the planes are telling you electronically and by feel, and making sure that our procedures are sound and we go through point A to point B as successfully and safely as possibly,”” he said.

    Coiner, who served as a pilot for 17 years, said most pilots spend about 10 to 12 hours a day during their first 10 years in the flying quadrant. Pilots do some mission planning, briefing preparation and then do an individual flight briefing with another flight member. They fly for about two hours and then do another brief for an hour or two.

    He said he supervises 14 people in his shop and does various preparations around the Air Force base.

    One significant preparation pilots go through is emergency procedure rehearsals, in which participants have to stand in a room of 50 people and say what they would do in an emergency situation, Coiner said.

    “”It’s like being in college and a professor telling you to stand up and tell the class by memory what you learned last night in the readings,”” he said.

    Another exercise pilots practice is called, “”chair flying”” – the art of flying without an actual airplane. He said this is where they practice going through a mental checklist during a “”flight.””

    Davis-Monthon hosted the Heritage Flight Conference, an aircraft-training event, March 6 to 8.

    Air Force Colonel Eric Schnaible, director of public affairs for air combat command, said this was an opportunity for civilian and military pilots to train together in preparation for the spring and summer air show seasons.

    “”These are the various planes that fought our nation’s wars, World War I up through Korea and Vietnam to our present-day, fourth and fifth-generation fighters,”” he said.

    Safety is paramount to everything they do on the base, Schnaible said.

    Safety statistics released by the International Air Transport Association showed there were 502 people killed in airplane accidents last year, which was down from 692 deaths in 2007.

    “”While there have been recent flying incidents this past year, each incident is an un-related event,”” Schnaible said.

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