Aviation Electronics Technicians Tackle Everything Aviation

Aviation Electronics Technician 2nd Class Victoria Piazza performs the cockpit portion of a release systems check on an F/A-18 Super Hornet from Strike Fighter Squadron (VFA) 211, while Aviation Ordnanceman 1st Class Gregory Ciego supervises in Virginia Beach, Va.

By ATCS Jessica Miller

Sometimes it feels as though the Navy’s AT rate should stand for aviation-everything technician because an Aviation Electronics Technician’s duties cover the electronic systems and subsystems of all naval aircraft and often cross into other rates.

While we do not perform the jobs of other rates, the equipment we maintain touches other areas such as hydraulics and aviators’ breathing oxygen. We also help maintain the equipment used by other aviation maintenance rates.

This broad spectrum is a result of the two maintenance levels covered by the rate: the intermediate, or “I” level, and the organizational, known as the “O” level. While there is a third, few Sailors work at that level.

O-level, also known as “on bird” maintenance, is performed at the squadron level. Here we work on the aircraft itself, troubleshooting systems such as radar, navigation, fire control and signal jamming. Considering the number of types, models and series of aircraft in the naval inventory—each with its own systems—one can begin to appreciate the sheer number of systems the AT rate encompasses.

ATs also troubleshoot to determine which component is faulty, replace it and turn the broken component in to the local intermediate-level facility for repair. In a squadron, ATs must also qualify to perform regular day-to-day aircraft maintenance such as fueling, daily inspections, runway taxiing and aircraft washing.

Aviation Electronics Technician 2nd Class Nick Lacey, assigned to Helicopter Sea Combat Squadron (HSC) 15, inspects the electrical system of an MH-60S Seahawk helicopter Feb. 28 in USS Carl Vinson’s (CVN 70) hangar bay in the Arabian Gulf.

Intermediate-level maintenance is usually performed at a shore-based Fleet Readiness Center or the Aircraft Intermediate Maintenance Department on afloat units. The broken components get repaired at different shops such as: micro and miniature circuit repair shops for any soldering repairs; radar shop, shared reconnaissance pods shop or a generic consolidated automated support system (CASS); and various electronic gadgets shops for other items not requiring a high power or laser setup such as can be seen in our Advanced Targeting Forward-Looking Infrared (ATFLIR) shop.

The calibration lab is a unique work center where ATs do not work on actual aircraft parts, but calibrate and repair any and all equipment that takes a measurement. We calibrate pressure gauges from engineering and air departments, oxygen gauges from Aircrew Survival Equipmentmans (PR), the Jet Engine Test cell for Aviation Machinist Mates (AD), servocylinder test stand for Aviation Structural Mechanics (AM), and support equipment pre-oilers, or PON6, for the Aviation Support Equipment Technicians (AS), to name a few.

ATs have their hands in every aspect of aircraft maintenance, and this rate is so diverse that at one time it had 85 individual Navy Enlisted Classifications.

The Aviation Electronics Technician rate offers a challenging and diverse career path that opens up numerous opportunities in the civilian sector.

ATCS Jessica Miller is an Aviation Electronics Technician Senior Chief stationed in Norfolk, Va.