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Inside the F-35: Maintainer Training

For every F-35, there are at least ten people who help keep it running and right now they are trained in Florida.
A maintainer learns the F-35 computer system called ALIS.
A maintainer learns the F-35 computer system called ALIS.
A maintainer heats material that will be used as a protective cover for the F-35 throttle.
A maintainer heats material that will be used as a protective cover for the F-35 throttle.
EGLIN AIR FORCE BASE, Fla. -  For every F-35, there are at least ten people who help keep it running and right now they are trained in Florida.

In 2020, it's expected the Vermont Air National Guard will land 18 of the new jets. Before that happens, guardsmen and women will have to go to training.

From launching the F-35, to checking for damage, it takes a team to keep the fighter jet going.

Collectively they are known as maintainers and right now the only place for them to learn how to keep the F-35 flying is at Eglin Air Force Base on the Florida Panhandle.

"It's one heck of a challenge I got to tell you," says Master Sergeant Scott Harris, Aircraft Section Chief.

Harris says the toughest part is the plane's new computer system called ALIS.

"We can see hydrolic pressures, the status of the aircraft, we can do functional checks, all by using the laptop," says Technical Sergeant Johnathan Meyer, F-35 Armor Instructor.

Maintainers will spend a week learning the computer and for some it is not easy.

"From my world, we come from pencil, paper, and books. This airplane is a computer," says Harris.

At the F-35 training facility, there are special classrooms. Maintainers use a video game-like system to learn how to fix the jet.

"Personally, I'm not one to learn from a computer screen. I'm an old man. I need to get in and be hands on. I need to see it. I need to do it," says Tech Sgt. Lance Murphy, Dedicated Crew Chief.

"Some of the older people are trying to get used to it. They are not computer savvy. But the new people coming through now, they really enjoy it," says Meyer.

After the classroom, it's time to head to the jets.

Here maintainers will learn from the experiences of those already working on the jets including Murphy. He started on the F-16.

"Pretty much inside out, forwards, backwards. That's all I knew before coming to this," says Murphy.

Murphy and others are developing the training as they go and learning themselves how to fix the jets.

"A lot of the repairs right now are software upgrades," says Harris.

Maintainers will spend up to four months here learning the jets before their time at Eglin is complete.

"When it comes time for me to retire, pass along all the knowledge I gained the next seven, eight years, pass it along to the new guys, it's going to be pretty awesome," says Murphy.


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