Technical Illustrators: By design, the skill of keeping aircraft in flight

  • Published
  • By Kisha Foster Johnson
  • Robins Public Affairs

When workers at the Warner Robins Air Logistics Complex at Robins Air Force Base, Georgia, have to reassemble an aircraft after maintenance, they use a manual or technical order to guide them step by step.

But who creates and updates those T.O.s?

That’s the job of technical illustrators, like Anzio Gibson, with the Air Force Life Cycle Management Center.

He is one of 10 people working in this capacity at Robins.

“Perhaps you’ve seen instructions for a kid’s toy or bike. Well those instructions tell you how to put it together,” said Gibson. “Our job is the same concept, but not as simple and on a much bigger scale for airplanes and other items that defend our country.”

Technical orders are standardized instructions, which provide clear guidance for the safe and effective maintenance and operation of all aircraft equipment and are published by the Secretary of the Air Force.

Many decades ago, illustrators would perform this type of work by hand with pen and paper. During that time they were called drafters.

But now, these tasks are completed on computers, which provide for a quicker turnaround and more accurate final product.

The Air Force veteran, who started his civilian career at Robins in 1999 said the Air Force has digitized thousands and thousands of paper T.O. manuals, some dating back to perhaps the late 1960’s

According to Gibson, illustrators at Robins provide support for several different aircraft, such as the T-38 Talon, P-5 Marlin and C-5 Galaxy.

“The mechanics on the flight line per Federal Aviation Administration rules must have those manuals open while they are working on aircraft,” he said. “Those illustrations display different proportions of parts and components to provide visual impressions and different perspectives to help workers understand what they are looking at.”

Their workload also includes several missiles - AMRAAM, AIM-9, Small Dia Bombs, Support Equipment & Vehicles, BEAR BASE, Common Avionics Equipment, Armament, Ground Communications Equipment and Automatic Test Systems.

“It’s a low key job but very critical to the mission and keeping airplanes flying,” said Gibson. “If we put the wrong information in that T.O. it could be detrimental to a whole lot of people.

“Our department is more of a sustainment group,” he continued. “We are trying to make sure we are sustaining the life of any given aircraft or weapons system and keeping it as current as possible and war ready.”