To fly or not to fly - MX schedulers

U.S. Air Force Airman 1st Class Adam Amado, a documentation specialist assigned to the 6th Maintenance Group, works on his computer at MacDill Air Force Base, Fla., Nov. 21, 2017.

U.S. Air Force Airman 1st Class Adam Amado, a documentation specialist assigned to the 6th Maintenance Group, works on his computer at MacDill Air Force Base, Fla., Nov. 21, 2017. Amado is responsible for assisting in creating aircraft maintenance schedules, to ensure aircraft have a balance between flying hours and required maintenance. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Adam R. Shanks)

Airmen with the plans and scheduling office with the 6th Maintenance Group, pause for a photo at MacDill Air Force Base, Fla., Nov. 21, 2017.

Airmen with the plans and scheduling office with the 6th Maintenance Group, pause for a photo at MacDill Air Force Base, Fla., Nov. 21, 2017. This team is charged with coordinating with current operations to ensure each aircraft receives required maintenance. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Adam R. Shanks)

U.S. Air Force Senior Airman Bryonie Siler, a documentation specialist assigned to the 6th Maintenance Group, looks through aircraft jacket files at MacDill Air Force Base, Fla., Nov. 21, 2017.

U.S. Air Force Senior Airman Bryonie Siler, a documentation specialist assigned to the 6th Maintenance Group, looks through aircraft jacket files at MacDill Air Force Base, Fla., Nov. 21, 2017. Jacket files contain historical information on each aircraft at MacDill, which includes all maintenance and equipment the aircraft has received since its beginning of service. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Adam R. Shanks)

MACDILL AIR FORCE BASE, Fla. --

With 16 KC-135 Stratotanker aircraft and eight more on the way, MacDill Air Force Base’s maintenance scheduling shop are up for the challenge.

As maintenance managers, the Airmen in the plans and scheduling office assigned to the 6th Maintenance Group, oversee all maintenance and operations their aircraft participate in.

“We basically manage the entire aircraft, and all of its equipment,” said Tech. Sgt. Laquena Alicea, the section chief of plans and scheduling assigned to the 6th MXG. “Our schedules include deployments, temporary duty assignments, maintenance as well as current operations for each tail number [aircraft].”

Schedules are created for each week, but they are also planned monthly, quarterly and annually to provide leadership an idea of how each aircraft is performing.

“We know schedules are never set in stone, so deviations from the schedule can happen,” said Staff Sgt. Myra Walker, the NCO in charge of aircraft maintenance unit scheduling. “However, we keep track of the deviations, to make sure whatever maintenance was previously scheduled, gets done as soon as possible.”

Acting as the middleman between operations and maintenance, schedulers help keep the more than 60-year-old aircraft healthy, by ensuring they receive required maintenance when needed.

“We’ll receive word from Air Mobility Command that we need to perform maintenance on a certain aircraft on a specific day, so we have to consider the needs of operations,” said Alicea. “Efficiency is key, so when we schedule an aircraft to stay grounded and receive mandatory maintenance, we try to make it on a day that the pilots and aircrew can receive their training while the plane is being worked on.”

Not only do these Airmen handle the schedule for any local maintenance needs on MacDill, they also receive notices called “time compliance technical orders,” or TCTOs.

“TCTOs act like a recall on a car; they’re given because another base might suspect an issue in all of the aircraft with a specific part,” said Alicea. “So we have to incorporate these inspections into our schedule, while still considering current operations and our own maintenance at MacDill.”

In 2018, MacDill expects eight additional KC-135s to join its inventory, but for scheduling, they see it as an opportunity to help pilots.

“With more aircraft and resources, we can better fit the needs of the pilots and aircrew and their required training,” said Walker. “We do our best to keep the scheduling process as efficient as possible so that the flyers and the maintainers don’t become overwhelmed.”

Although the job is busy and requires a keen attention to detail, the Airmen in the scheduling office consistently ensure that MacDill’s aircraft are healthy and ready to support operations around the world.

“Scheduling is all about creating a good balance between downtime for the aircraft, and keeping it flying,” said Alicea. “These aircraft are approaching 70 years of service, so keeping them up-to-date on maintenance is our priority.”