Center gives 360-degree view of flight line; new software on horizon

  • Published
  • By Jenny Gordon
  • Robins Public Affairs
Like any good neighbor, the Robins Maintenance Operations Center is there for you. 

It's an around-the-clock operation that never rests. That's because maintenance work on the flight line continues no matter what time it is. 

And helping to support that effort behind-the-scenes is a group of former mechanics who are trained to assist with just about any request. From supporting maintenance professionals with dispatching of aerospace ground equipment, to documenting incidents or injuries, to alerting personnel of inclement weather, it's a job with prominent responsibility for those fortunate to do it.  

"We are the single point of contact for everyone who is on the flight line," said John "Nick" Nicholson, 402nd Aircraft Maintenance Support Squadron MOC chief. 

Much like the Robins Command Post, security forces and the fire department, it's a 24-hour-a-day, seven-day-a-week operation. 

The phones ring intermittently during one quiet morning in 'the MOC.' It's an unusual occurrence, and only happens every so often. Many calls routed to the MOC involve AGE, which can include requests regarding stands, lifts, tools, anything to support the dozens of aircraft on station. That particular week was training week for various squadrons, so calls to the MOC were few and far between.

A bookshelf sits filled with over 50 folders of checklists, ranging from what to do if there's a call on accidents and injuries or severe weather emergencies, to name a few. Five large monitors hang on one long wall of the room. One displays a visual representation of where aircraft are parked, another stays on a news channel.

But it's what is on the screen closest to the door that will soon transform how information is received on an aircraft's real-time status and location. 

It's called the MOC Visualizer, part of a bigger program under the Air Force Global Enterprise Tracking software infrastructure. The new, automated web-based system will replace what's usually seen on an oversized white board on a far wall: the MOC Parking Display Board. 

While the magnetic display board - which shows C-5, C-17, C-130 and F-15 aircraft currently here - has proved its reliability over the years. The new MOC Visualizer software will be a game-changer that will offer much more detailed information.

Although archaic by today's standards, the magnetic board has been an important safety feature for anyone working on the flight line. When there's an emergency, for example someone suffers an accident on an airplane, once a call comes to the MOC, personnel can immediately locate where that person is while also on the phone with emergency personnel on and/or off base.

The MOC can have direct eyes and ears on just about every situation that happens with not only people but aircraft they work on here.   

"It's a map of the base, of the flight line," said Nicholson of the older magnetic board. "If something happens out there, we know where it's at. We can track anything." 

Under one menu, the MOC Visualizer will allow MOC controllers the ability to input not only where an aircraft is located, but relevant information on dates related to programmed depot maintenance. 

When an F-15 is currently in a particular hangar and will undergo functional testing, the software will track when that happens. When a C-5 has a late-afternoon engine run, an icon next to the plane will highlight that test with an engine with flames. Or take a C-130, when one is being refueled, you'll be able to view that information, in real-time. Currently it's tracked on paper. 

A production status report will also prove useful for supervisors across the complex who wish to view its repository of data, including aircraft types, home station, tail number, arrival and departure dates, and applicable PDM dates for all aircraft on station and those due to arrive throughout the year. 

"This will allow things to be more simplified and much easier," said Tom Flowers, MOC controller.  

To further assist with tracking aircraft on the MOC Visualizer, aircraft here will soon be outfitted with active radio frequency identification tags, according to Nicholson. These are already in use on various tools, aircraft parts, aircraft ground equipment and tasks kits to track their location anywhere in an industrial area. This too was a game-changer as now these can be located electronically versus manually. 

An invaluable resource, the MOC has provided Robins with the big picture for many years. There's still much work to be done with the software, so sharing it is still months away. 

The room where MOC controllers work will also be renovated this year, all to prepare for a more efficient way of doing business not only at Robins, but also the Ogden and Oklahoma City air logistics complexes.