Airmen inspect, maintain life-saving parachutes

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MINOT AIR FORCE BASE, N.D. (AP) - Airmen at the parachute shop at Minot Air Force Base make sure the parachutes are in perfect working order for the aircrews and the planes.

“We pack three different types of parachutes for the B-52,” said Staff Sgt. Eric Gibson, quality assurance inspector with the Aircrew Flight Equipment’s Aircraft Support shop.

In the chute section, Gibson said, they pack three different types of packs for the B-52 bomber - the BA series personal back-style automatic parachutes for personnel, and also B-52 drogue chutes and B-52 deceleration or drag chutes.

There are 290 personal parachutes, 70 deceleration chutes and 168 drogue chutes.

Gibson, from Chicago, has been at the Minot base for five years. He said all the parts and pieces for the chutes are manufactured in other areas.

“When they come here, we put them all together,” he told the Minot Daily News (http://bit.ly/1i4LfW3).

“Our only claim-to-fame is these deceleration chutes. There’s only two bases in the world that maintain B-52 deceleration chutes,” Gibson said.

Minot AFB and Barksdale AFB in Louisiana are the only bases with B-52 bombers.

Gibson said the personal parachutes are for various aircraft and not specifically for B-52 aircrews.

Every aircraft has a drogue chute.

“These chutes are attached to the ejection seats,” Gibson said. “It helps pull the seat away for the crewmember during man seat separation because you don’t want to be attached to the seat when your personal parachute opens.”

Senior Airman Tyandra Small, a journeyman, and Airman 1st Class Roger Bennett, an apprentice, are among the personnel with the parachute shop. Small, from Sumter, S.C., has been at the Minot base for four years. Bennett, who calls Hillsboro, Ore., home, arrived in July 2013. Minot AFB is his first assignment in the Air Force.

“We are pretty much experts on everything. We are able to assemble/disassemble, maintain, inspect all the parts and pieces,” Small explained.

The shop is a five-day operation, except when there are exercises they work extra time, Bennett said.

Aircrews rely on the shop for well-operating equipment should anything go wrong with the aircraft.

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