MACDILL AIR FORCE BASE, Fla. --
Each month, Tech. Sgt. Dustin Wegehaupt, a production supervisor and jet engine instructor assigned to the 373rd Training Squadron, Detachment 2, leads a unique course teaching personnel how to run aircraft engines at MacDill Air Force Base, Florida.
Known as the KC-135R/T Flightline F108 Engine Operator Course, the four-day class is designed to train and qualify personnel on the flightline to safely and correctly operate aircraft engines without a pilot.
“The class trains students on operational and emergency procedures for the F108 engines on the KC-135, and teaches students about operating limits,” said Wegehaupt. “If they have any maintenance issues involving the engines, it won’t be necessary to fly someone else in to run the engines, which could potentially affect a time critical mission to support aircraft and troops.”
During the first three days, students are instructed on safety precautions, operating limits, and emergency procedures.
“We also teach how to do an internal and external pre-start check, which is basically making sure everything is set up right before and after an engine run,” said Wegehaupt. “The last day of the course, we actually take the students out and run the engines.”
According to Wegehaupt, one of the most challenging aspects of teaching the course is instilling confidence in the students to run the engines in the allotted amount of time.
“It is a very big responsibility to have full control of the aircraft when you are the engine run operator,” said Wegehaupt. “This class gives me the chance to help students see why they need to be engine run qualified and how it impacts the Air Force as a whole.”
Personnel from several specialty codes including: crew chiefs. electrical and environmental, propulsion, hydraulics, instruments and flight controls, and guidance and control systems can become engine-run qualified.
Participants are selected based on evaluations from their supervisors and meeting the course pre-requisites.
“I’ve taken a lot of classes,” said Senior Airman Jose Gonzalez, a crew chief assigned to the 6th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron. “This class is by far my favorite because of its high importance. It’s important to know the total limits of the engines because running them can be dangerous, but doing it yourself is pretty exciting.”
The excitement this class brings to not only the students, but also the instructors, has been ongoing for 30 years, the latest three of which Wegehaupt has instructed.
“The F108 engines were put on the KC-135 in the early 1980s, but I am sure they have made some changes to the course material over that time,” chuckled Wegehaupt. “I personally love being a jet engine mechanic, and any time I get to share my knowledge on the engine, it puts a smile on my face.”