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No Margin For Error

Airman 1st Class Robert Dumbeck (left), 9th Maintenance Squadron aircrew egress systems journeyman, and Tech. Sgt. Cody Clark 9th MXS aircrew egress systems craftsman, inspect an egress seat D-ring before installing a D-ring guard, Jan. 16, 2020 at Beale Air Force Base, California. When a pilot pulls the D-ring, it fires an initiator that sends gas pressure to explosives. Each of these explosives fire at different items like the lap belt, inertia reel, and foot retractors. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Luis A. Ruiz-Vazquez)

Airman 1st Class Robert Dumbeck (left), 9th Maintenance Squadron aircrew egress systems journeyman, and Tech. Sgt. Cody Clark 9th MXS aircrew egress systems craftsman, inspect an ejection seat D-ring before installing a D-ring guard, Jan. 16, 2020 at Beale Air Force Base, California. When a pilot pulls the D-ring, it fires an initiator that sends gas pressure to explosives. Each of these explosives fire at different items like the lap belt, inertia reel, and foot retractors. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Luis A. Ruiz-Vazquez)

Airman 1st Class Robert Dumback, 9th Maintenance Squadron aircrew egress systems journeyman, installs a D-ring guard on a U-2 Dragon Lady egress seat Jan. 14, 2020 at Beale Air force Base, California. A D-ring is the component of an egress seat that a pilot pulls to eject. The purpose of a D-ring guard is to protect the D-ring and prevent the accidental activation of an egress seat. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Luis A. Ruiz-Vazquez)

Airman 1st Class Robert Dumbeck, 9th Maintenance Squadron aircrew egress systems journeyman, installs a D-ring guard on a U-2 Dragon Lady ejection seat Jan. 14, 2020 at Beale Air force Base, California. A D-ring is the component of an ejection seat that a pilot pulls to eject. The purpose of a D-ring guard is to protect the D-ring and prevent the accidental activation of an ejection seat. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Luis A. Ruiz-Vazquez)

9th Maintenance Squadron aircrew egress Airmen install a U-2 Dragon Lady egress seat, Jan. 16, 2020 at Beale Air Force Base, California. To guarantee the proper functioning of egress systems, these professionals perform maintenance regularly, conduct full diagnostic inspections of egress systems, check for any broken components, and swap out any time-changeable items that have expired.

9th Maintenance Squadron aircrew egress Airmen install a U-2 Dragon Lady ejection seat, Jan. 16, 2020 at Beale Air Force Base, California. To guarantee the proper functioning of egress systems, these professionals perform maintenance regularly, conduct full diagnostic inspections of egress systems, check for any broken components, and swap out any time-changeable items that have expired.

Intricate components located the bottom of an egress seat, waiting to be installed to a U-2 Dragon Lady, Jan. 14, 2020 at Beale Air Force Base, California. If a pilot ever needs to eject from an aircraft, gas pressure will be sent through these hoses and to the explosives so that a pilot can escape the aircraft. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Luis A. Ruiz-Vazquez)

Intricate components located the bottom of an ejection seat, waiting to be installed to a U-2 Dragon Lady, Jan. 14, 2020 at Beale Air Force Base, California. If a pilot ever needs to eject from an aircraft, gas pressure will be sent through these hoses and to the explosives so that a pilot can escape the aircraft. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Luis A. Ruiz-Vazquez)

BEALE AIR FORCE BASE, Calif. --

When a plane goes down, an ejection seat keeps pilots from going down with it. Ejecting from an ejection seat is not something a pilot wants to do, but it is something they have to do in case of an emergency where everything else in an aircraft fails. It is their last chance at survival, and their lives rest on the hands of aircrew egress system specialists.

These professionals make sure all aircraft egress systems at Beale are properly functioning.

“We inspect and maintain around 40 egress systems from U-2s, TU-2s, and T-38s,” said Staff Sgt. Cody Clark, 9th Maintenance Squadron aircrew egress craftsman.

Being responsible for inspecting and maintaining around 40 egress systems from these different aircraft keeps the aircrew egress shop busy.

“We try to schedule anywhere from two to three seats in a typical week,” said Staff Sgt. Clark, “and that’s not including unscheduled maintenance that could pop up and that could be anywhere from zero to five.”

Knowing that a life is on the line if something isn’t done right puts a lot of pressure on Airmen working on egress systems.

“It’s important that I do my job right because if I don’t do my job properly and a pilot does eject he could die and that’s on me, then I’d have to live knowing that there’s a guy who lost his life because I didn’t do my job right,” said Senior Airmen Steven Phelps, 9th Maintenance Squadron aircrew egress journeyman.

For aircrew egress systems Airmen, there is no margin for error. Airmen at the egress shop rely on each other to make sure the job gets done and the lives of pilots are potentially saved.

“It’s a bit scary knowing that a pilot’s life is at stake,” said Staff Sgt. Clark. “But I feel overall confident knowing that our crew executed everything perfectly because we do not settle for anything less than perfection.”