Fabric Survival Equipment Shop sees uptick in F-15 parachute inspections

  • Published
  • By Jenny Gordon
  • Robins Public Affairs
It's been a busy few weeks in the Fabric Survival Equipment Shop's parachute packing room.  Since mid-October, the shop which maintains parachutes for the F-15, has seen an uptick in the number of life-saving parachutes they must inspect - 17 at last count. Normally in a single year a total of seven to 10 parachutes are inspected and replaced as needed. 

And that doesn't include other work that happens in the shop, including inspections of critical equipment such as survival and medical kits, and one-man and 20-man life rafts. A nearby team of workers also sews together material for things like flight suits, wall and floor blankets, cargo nets and even curtains for other aircraft in the fleet. 

"This equipment is life-saving," said Mike McCarthy, a 573rd Commodities Maintenance Group's Aircrew Flight Equipment/Parachute Shop technician. "If you're coming out of an airplane from 15,000 to 20,000 feet, we want to make sure these parachutes open, and to get a pilot out of harm's way as soon as possible."     

Each parachute onboard an F-15 has a service life of 13 years. When one arrives, panels, harnesses, suspension lines that run from the parachute's risers to the parachute itself, control handles, everything is methodically and painstakingly inspected for any signs of wear and tear. 

If anything is found, it is disassembled and repaired or replaced in a timely manner, then taken back to the F-15 Egress Shop on the flight line. 

Parachute packers work in a room dedicated for the operation, which includes several 20-plus foot tables. Its components that are inspected originate from the aircraft's Advanced Concept Ejection Seat, or ACES II ejection seat, which also contains additional critical survival equipment, which the Egress Shop works on when an F-15 comes in for programmed depot maintenance.  

Extend a parachute out and it can reach nearly the entire length from one of the parachute's risers, which hook up to the pilot, to the top. Following inspection and replacement, they're rolled tightly again to be placed back into the pilot's seat. 

The fighter aircraft are maintained at Robins by the 561st Aircraft Maintenance Squadron. When one arrives for PDM, its parachute equipment is turned over to the team that includes McCarthy, Grant Morgan and Master Sgt. Kevin Spano, who packs similar canopies in Bldg. 12 that are used in backpacks worn by C-5 and C-130 pilots.        

"The hardest part about this job is technique. It's so intricate that you're essentially packing this canopy into a shoebox," said Spano, NCOIC of Aircrew Flight Equipment with the 339th Flight Test Squadron. He's been packing parachutes for 13 years. "It's very tedious especially with folding." 

If no repairs are made to a parachute, it can take up to five hours to inspect and roll back into its packed form.