A sharp decline has been noted in safety incidents amongst maintenance and technical personnel during the past years, as a result of a significant increase in awareness of these incidents in squadrons. The IAF continues to act in order to reduce the risk of harming personnel health and IAF property

Vered Talala

IAF personnel claim that the decline is a direct result of the significant increase of safety awareness in the squadrons. The awareness is a result of knowledge sharing between the squadrons and learning from each other in order to prevent similar incidents.

The process of sending off an aircraft to an operational sortie entails rigorous work in the HAS (Hardened Aircraft Shelter) a high-risk area as a result of the munitions and weapons the technicians arm the aircraft with. “There are many dangerous actions that we perform on the aircraft”, clarified Maj. Yizhak Korah, Technical Department Commander in the “Tip of the Spear” Squadron which operates the “Baz” (F-15). “Only by working with fighter jets in the HAS, we are exposed to very high risk level and the risk level only rises when the aircraft’s engine is on”.

Safe Maintenance

Photography: Mor Tzidon

There are a few risk categories that IAF technicians are exposed to, such as noise, falling objects, heat and shock waves emitted by the aircraft and other dangerous materials it might emit. The technicians are exposed to the highest risk levels in the aircraft ignition process, in which the engine pumps a great deal of air and creates immense thrust. The pump is so strong that it can suck in the objects around the aircraft and endanger human lives.

“When starting the engine, anyone who isn’t participating in the process isn’t around, the procedure is very strict. When you are in a familiar and routine work area, your instincts and fear mechanisms do not operate properly – and this creates indiscretion”, insisted Maj. Korah. “After every safety incident in our, or sister squadrons, we communicate recurring clarifications regarding said incident and think how we could have prevented it. We examine ourselves and check how processes are performed in the HAS”.

Safe Maintenance

Photography: Mor Tzidon

Safety Above All
“Safety is above all”, stated Maj. Korah. “An accident in real time could stop the process of sending out a sortie, so in these situations we will insist on supervision of senior technicians in every HAS, in order for them to inspect everything closely. When they recognize pressure, strain or any damage potential they stop the process, explain how to operate differently and continue”.

Like in every operational squadron, the “Tip of the Spear” Squadron performs a weekly conclusion of all unusual incidents. “For every thousand unusual incidents, there are about ten real accidents”, said Maj. Korah. “In these cases there isn’t real damage of health or property, and we have a chance to investigate and learn from them”.

New technicians that arrive at the operational squadrons undergo instructions regarding work safety in the HAS, learn about the dangers entailed in close work with fighter jets and how to avoid them. “The safety briefs are very detailed, and when they arrive at the HAS they each have a tutor that personally teaches them how to operate”, he described. “I expect my soldiers to take responsibility for their actions. Each one of them knows the risks and how to operate accordingly”.

Safe Maintenance

Photography: Mor Tzidon