Airsave vest provides peace of mind to aircrew

  • Published
  • By Staff Sgt. Nick Wilson
  • 509th Bomb Wing Public Affairs
Just like computer programmers upgrade their technology to make processes more efficient, the Air Force upgrades flight equipment to ease daily procedures and save time, effort and expense.

The 509th Operations Support Squadron airfield flight equipment shop recently received two brand-new Airsave vests from Air Combat Command. The vests were sent to AFE shops worldwide so Airmen could research their advantages and disadvantages as compared to older vest styles.

"I have worn the old vest and it was kind of bulky and the pockets would flop around, but that isn't the case with the Airsave," said Lt. Col. Timothy Hale, 509th OSS director of operations.

The vests are expected to substantially improve the processes of both aircrew members and AFE members, and ACC first sent the vests to Whiteman and other Air Force bases with fighter or bomber aircraft.

"The vests are in the testing phase right now," said Senior Airman Ethan Mason, 509th OSS AFE journeyman. "We're looking for any problems the vest may have and ways to make it better for the pilots. We input everyone's ideas and thoughts. Once we send the vests back to ACC, they will bring all of that into consideration before improving and releasing them Air Force-wide."

The vest is made of modular lightweight load-carrying equipment (MOLLE), which assists in making critical items easier to access. The MOLLE equipment consists of a basket weave-type strapping system that allows for the addition of various attachments and accessories.

"When equipment is interwoven onto the vest, it's a lot less likely to fall off," Hale said. "Having equipment on the vest move around less makes the items less susceptible to separation and also reduces the risk of aircrew injury in the event of an ejection."

With the new design, aircrew members can also customize the location of equipment on the vest to their liking, a feature unavailable on previous versions.

Being able to customize how equipment is loaded and accessed, such as a radio or a sidearm, is a dramatic improvement for aircrew members who must endure long flights.

Any improvement in pilot comfort is a welcome improvement, especially for B-2 aircrew members who are often called upon to fly sorties totaling 20 or more hours, said Hale.

"The Airsave vest not only allows for more comfort, it also makes for a less fatiguing environment because I'm not bumping into things or moving in unnatural positions to get to flight controls," Hale said. "You can move the attachments around so they suit your body type and required movement in the airplane."

Not only is the Airsave vest an improvement from an aircrew perspective, it is also an enhancement for aircrew flight equipment personnel, who said they are enthusiastic about being able to work with the flyers to customize it.

"One aspect of the vest that makes work easier for AFE Airmen is how the components make the vest's surface more even and flat," said Tech. Sgt. Damian Bunch, 509th OSS NCO in charge of AFE. "This makes it 100 percent easier and quicker for us to maintain."

Since the vests pilots are currently using are more than a decade old, the vests represent a robust improvement for aircrew members and AFE Airmen alike, said Bunch.

"We now have an opportunity to tell ACC, 'This is how we would like this vest to be, and these are the inputs we think are necessary to make it more efficient,'" Bunch said. "This vest will not only be more comfortable, but also more reliable for those who wear it."