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436th CES hones aircraft mishap surveying skills

436th Civil Engineer Squadron engineering assistants carry necessary equipment to a debris field during an aircraft mishap survey exercise Dec. 18, 2018, near Killens Pond State Park, Kent County, Del. Survey team members located miscellaneous aircraft and aircrew items of a simulated T-38 Talon aircraft mishap and practiced plotting and documenting each of the items using GPS equipment and a digital camera. (U.S. Air Force photo by Roland Balik)

436th Civil Engineer Squadron engineering assistants carry necessary equipment to a debris field during an aircraft mishap survey exercise Dec. 18, 2018, near Killens Pond State Park, Kent County, Del. Survey team members located miscellaneous aircraft and aircrew items of a simulated T-38 Talon aircraft mishap and practiced plotting and documenting each of the items using GPS equipment and a digital camera. (U.S. Air Force photo by Roland Balik)

Simon Lowe, 436th Civil Engineer Squadron engineering technician, places condemned aircraft parts on a tarp prior to an aircraft mishap survey exercise Dec. 18, 2018, near Killens Pond State Park, Kent County, Del. Lowe placed about 45 miscellaneous aircraft and aircrew items for 436th CES engineering assistants to practice plotting and documenting the items using GPS equipment and a digital camera. (U.S. Air Force photo by Roland Balik)

Simon Lowe, 436th Civil Engineer Squadron engineering technician, places condemned aircraft parts on a tarp prior to an aircraft mishap survey exercise Dec. 18, 2018, near Killens Pond State Park, Kent County, Del. Lowe placed about 45 miscellaneous aircraft and aircrew items for 436th CES engineering assistants to practice plotting and documenting the items using GPS equipment and a digital camera. (U.S. Air Force photo by Roland Balik)

James Hoff, 436th Civil Engineer Squadron execution support section chief, places a marker flag by an aviator’s helmet prior to an aircraft mishap survey exercise Dec. 18, 2018, near Killens Pond State Park, Kent County, Del. Hoff placed markers by miscellaneous aircraft and aircrew items used for a simulated aircraft mishap. (U.S. Air Force photo by Roland Balik)

James Hoff, 436th Civil Engineer Squadron execution support section chief, places a marker flag by an aviator’s helmet prior to an aircraft mishap survey exercise Dec. 18, 2018, near Killens Pond State Park, Kent County, Del. Hoff placed markers by miscellaneous aircraft and aircrew items used for a simulated aircraft mishap. (U.S. Air Force photo by Roland Balik)

Master Sgt. Jason McNabb, 436th Civil Engineer Squadron engineering flight superintendent, briefs engineering assistants prior to an aircraft mishap survey exercise Dec. 18, 2018, near Killens Pond State Park, Kent County, Del. McNabb briefed the EA survey team of a simulated T-38 Talon aircraft mishap. (U.S. Air Force photo by Roland Balik)

Master Sgt. Jason McNabb, 436th Civil Engineer Squadron engineering flight superintendent, briefs engineering assistants prior to an aircraft mishap survey exercise Dec. 18, 2018, near Killens Pond State Park, Kent County, Del. McNabb briefed the EA survey team of a simulated T-38 Talon aircraft mishap. (U.S. Air Force photo by Roland Balik)

Airman 1st Class Angela Schnedler, 436th Civil Engineer Squadron engineering journeyman sets up a GPS surveying base station during an aircraft mishap survey exercise Dec. 18, 2018, near Killens Pond State Park, Kent County, Del. Schnedler ensured the base station was communicating with GPS satellites orbiting the Earth. (U.S. Air Force photo by Roland Balik)

Airman 1st Class Angela Schnedler, 436th Civil Engineer Squadron engineering journeyman sets up a GPS surveying base station during an aircraft mishap survey exercise Dec. 18, 2018, near Killens Pond State Park, Kent County, Del. Schnedler ensured the base station was communicating with GPS satellites orbiting the Earth. (U.S. Air Force photo by Roland Balik)

Operational surveying equipment used in a T-38 Talon aircraft mishap survey exercise sits in a field Dec. 18, 2018, near Killens Pond State Park, Kent County, Del. Numerous 436th CES engineering assistants practiced plotting and documenting miscellaneous aircraft and aircrew items using the GPS-enhanced surveying equipment and a digital camera. (U.S. Air Force photo by Roland Balik)

Operational surveying equipment used in a T-38 Talon aircraft mishap survey exercise sits in a field Dec. 18, 2018, near Killens Pond State Park, Kent County, Del. Numerous 436th CES engineering assistants practiced plotting and documenting miscellaneous aircraft and aircrew items using the GPS-enhanced surveying equipment and a digital camera. (U.S. Air Force photo by Roland Balik)

Airman 1st Class Alishia Lott and Angela Schnedler, 436th Civil Engineer Squadron engineering journeymen use surveying equipment to record debris location during an aircraft mishap survey exercise Dec. 18, 2018, near Killens Pond State Park, Kent County, Del. Lott and Schnedler documented the exact location of miscellaneous aircraft and aircrew items of a simulated T-38 Talon aircraft mishap using GPS satellites. (U.S. Air Force photo by Roland Balik)

Airman 1st Class Alishia Lott and Angela Schnedler, 436th Civil Engineer Squadron engineering journeymen use surveying equipment to record debris location during an aircraft mishap survey exercise Dec. 18, 2018, near Killens Pond State Park, Kent County, Del. Lott and Schnedler documented the exact location of miscellaneous aircraft and aircrew items of a simulated T-38 Talon aircraft mishap using GPS satellites. (U.S. Air Force photo by Roland Balik)

From left to right, Master Sgt. Jason McNabb, Senior Airman Edcyril Ernest Mallonga, and Airman 1st Class Alishia Lott, all from the 436th Civil Engineer Squadron engineering flight, look at a simulated debris field during an aircraft mishap survey exercise Dec. 18, 2018, near Killens Pond State Park, Kent County, Del. McNabb observed and instructed survey team members on procedures and methods used to document debris from an aircraft mishap. (U.S. Air Force photo by Roland Balik)

From left to right, Master Sgt. Jason McNabb, Senior Airman Edcyril Ernest Mallonga, and Airman 1st Class Alishia Lott, all from the 436th Civil Engineer Squadron engineering flight, look at a simulated debris field during an aircraft mishap survey exercise Dec. 18, 2018, near Killens Pond State Park, Kent County, Del. McNabb observed and instructed survey team members on procedures and methods used to document debris from an aircraft mishap. (U.S. Air Force photo by Roland Balik)

From left to right, Senior Airman Jahleel Morales, Airman 1st Class Angela Schnedler, Alishia Lott and Taylor Hawk, all from the 436th Civil Engineer Squadron engineering flight, document location data of a flagged item in a simulated debris field during an aircraft mishap survey exercise Dec. 18, 2018, near Killens Pond State Park, Kent County, Del. Schnedler entered information into a data collector attached to a surveying rover. (U.S. Air Force photo by Roland Balik)

From left to right, Senior Airman Jahleel Morales, Airman 1st Class Angela Schnedler, Alishia Lott and Taylor Hawk, all from the 436th Civil Engineer Squadron engineering flight, document location data of a flagged item in a simulated debris field during an aircraft mishap survey exercise Dec. 18, 2018, near Killens Pond State Park, Kent County, Del. Schnedler entered information into a data collector attached to a surveying rover. (U.S. Air Force photo by Roland Balik)

Airman 1st Class Taylor Hawk and Angela Schnedler, both 436th Civil Engineer Squadron engineering journeymen, documents a flagged item in a simulated debris field during an aircraft mishap survey exercise Dec. 18, 2018, near Killens Pond State Park, Kent County, Del. Documenting debris locations with a corresponding digital photograph aids investigation boards in determining the cause of an accident. (U.S. Air Force photo by Roland Balik)
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Airman 1st Class Taylor Hawk and Angela Schnedler, both 436th Civil Engineer Squadron engineering journeymen, documents a flagged item in a simulated debris field during an aircraft mishap survey exercise Dec. 18, 2018, near Killens Pond State Park, Kent County, Del. Documenting debris locations with a corresponding digital photograph aids investigation boards in determining the cause of an accident. (U.S. Air Force photo by Roland Balik)

DOVER AIR FORCE BASE, Del. -- On a brisk morning, Engineering Assistants from the 436th Civil Engineer Squadron engineering flight were recalled to their duty section on Dec. 18, 2018.

With the news of a simulated aircraft accident, the EAs rapidly deployed with surveying equipment and supplies in tow to a location 15 miles south of the base, near Killens Pond State Park.

Integral to aircraft mishap investigations, EAs map out aircraft debris fields using digital cameras and GPS-enhanced surveying equipment to assist aircraft investigation board members with analyzing the incident.

EAs must be capable of deploying at a moment’s notice as a member of an aircraft mishap survey team if an incident was to happen in the Delmarva Peninsula.

“Over the 17 years I have been in the military, I have been a part of eight real-world mishaps of all shapes and sizes, ranging from fighter, bomber and cargo aircraft,” said Master Sgt. Jason McNabb, 436th CES engineering flight superintendent. “I’ve had clear crash sites and heavily vegetated areas and had an unfortunate experience of having to work with human remains. All in all, I learned a lot from those experiences, and I am more than happy to teach the next generation of EAs.”

Prior to the arrival of the aircraft mishap survey team, Simon Lowe, 436th CES engineering technician, and James Hoff, 436th CES execution support section chief, placed and flagged condemned aircraft parts and aircrew flight gear in a small parcel of land, with permission from Delaware State Parks.

“Due to the size of the area, we built a scenario using a smaller aircraft: a T-38, to be exact. Because larger aircraft may have a larger debris field, and we had some limitations,” said McNabb. “Regardless of the type of aircraft used in the exercise, the methods and procedures used are the same.”

The engineering flight is required to conduct aircraft mishap survey training every three years but aims to make it an annual training requirement because of aircraft assigned at Dover AFB.

“These guys can survey with their eyes closed and are a great team with great chemistry between them,” said McNabb. “What makes aircraft mishap survey training important is the process, because these events are so infrequent, it’s easy to forget. Being recalled and forced to do a last-second inventory and function check of equipment within a short window of time makes this training relevant. If we can’t do those simple things, we can delay the process on sight.”

For some EAs, this training exercise allowed them to perform various duties and roles as aircraft mishap survey team members for the first time in their Air Force career.

“As the team lead, to get a team all together and lay out the expectations was one of the challenges we encountered while working hand-in-hand to educate everybody in order to get something out of this training,” said Senior Airman Kolawole Oyekanmi, 436th CES engineering journeyman.

After observing the simulated debris field, team members determined which surveying method they would use for that location and then set up the relevant equipment.

“The EAs were forced to set up a mobile GPS base station in order to survey using sub-centimeter accuracy,” said McNabb. “They also set up a conventional Geodimeter. This exercise forced them to use multiple survey methods and test their understanding of each.”

When surveying, the use of GPS is the preferred method because it is fast and accurate. Using a conventional geodimeter, which captures the distance between two points using light waves, a EA team can use reflectors for areas under tree cover or no access to the horizon from a debris field. Without this equipment, EAs would do manual topography, which is the least preferred method.

“I enjoyed the training; it familiarized me with the basics of what to do during an aircraft mishap survey,” said Airman 1st Class Alishia Lott, 436th CES engineering journeyman. “What I did wrong, I had to go back and do it over again. I was inputting information wrong into the controller and had to go back and do it all over again.”

Survey information collected could include the location of chemicals found in or near the debris field, including streams, ponds, lakes, etc.

“We also need to document the environmental damage that may have been caused, so we can determine how to mitigate, clean up the site and return it to its pre-mishap state,” said McNabb.

After plotting all of the marked debris items, the team packed up their equipment and headed back to Dover AFB to download captured information, process the data and produce a map with photos to each of the items. In a real-world event, this information would be provided to investigation boards in determining the cause of an accident.

Referring to aircraft mishap surveying, McNabb stated, “It’s a very small part of the job, but methods used during a crash survey are something these guys and girls do every single day – and they do it with professionalism and enthusiasm.”