Health assessments ensure F-35 crew chiefs are fit to fight

LUKE AIR FORCE BASE, Ariz. --

It was a regular day on the flightline. However, an intricate system of tubes and scientific instruments were woven and clipped to the maintainer’s uniforms. Ensuring a healthy environment is available for Airmen to perform their jobs is the first concern for the Air Force and could mean the difference between aircraft flying or static displays.

Members of Team Luke, Nellis and Wright-Patterson’s USAF School of Aerospace Medicine (USAFSAM) recently came together to conduct state of the art air quality and heat stress assessments on F-35A Lightning II maintainers currently stationed at the 56th Fighter Wing.

“Coming to Luke and monitoring the maintainers helps us drive future research,” said Major Jamie Kurzdorfer, USAFSAM Force Health Protection Branch Chief. “Being able to evaluate a combination of heat stress along with chemical monitoring gives us a good idea of how the two pair together for Airmen working in these conditions.”

USAFSAM is an internationally renowned center for aerospace medical learning, consultation, aerospace medical investigations and aircrew health assessments and were tasked with evaluating the safety of maintainers working on the flightline.

Several Airmen assigned to the 61st and 62nd Fighter Squadrons were equipped with different instruments designed to measure their oxygen and carbon dioxide levels, core body temperatures and the amount of volatile compounds present in the air. Despite wearing extra equipment, the Airmen participating in the tests were instructed to perform the launch and recovery of an F-35A as normal as possible to get the most accurate assessment.

“Working with members of Nellis has aided us in training them to be able to perform the same types of tests down the road,” Kurzdorfer said. “The long term effort for this is to feed the results into data analysis and help us provide a more accurate, precision type of medical assessment to Airmen exposed to these elements in the future.”

The three bases worked in conjunction with one another for a week with scheduled plans to continue further research.

“The real time data we collect from these samples is essential to our analysis,” said Laura Flory, USAFSAM Research Biologist and Field Technician. “Having the ability to take into account all types of variables allows us to be more precise with our future health assessments.”

Keeping Airmen safe in their daily working conditions is a top priority for the Air Force. Through continued analysis and assessments, the Air Force will continue to ensure Airmen remain fit to fight.