By Tech. Sgt. Daniel Butterfield
302nd Airlift Wing Public Affairs
PETERSON AIR FORCE BASE, Colo. — For some aircraft maintainers, it’s something they may never see in a 30-year career, but for the Airmen of the 302nd Maintenance Group, it happened twice this summer in less than two weeks.
Two of the Wing’s C-130H3 Hercules aircraft were designated “black letter.”
This distinguished classification means an aircraft has no open discrepancies, no known discrepancies and no write-ups. And that honor was bestowed upon the crew chiefs of both aircraft with tail numbers 94-7318 and 94-7310.
“Two Black Letter aircraft in two-week’s time is a rare and extraordinary accomplishment that was only possible by the outstanding skill, teamwork and dedication of our maintainers,” said Col. James Van Housen, 302nd Maintenance Group commander. “We take a lot of pride in keeping our C-130s in the best possible condition.”
Crew chiefs who led the “black letter” status on aircraft 94-7318 are: Tech. Sgt. Randy Stanley, Pat Granger and Airman 1st Class James McEndree. For aircraft 94-7310, Tech. Sgt. Eric Senzek, Staff Sgts. Stephen Marsh and Anthony Jordan and Airman Jesse Pabon achieved the distinguished honor.
These C-130 Hercules achieved the “black letter” designation at a high point in their career. With a number of deployments to Southwest Asia and numerous duty assignments, the approximately 17 year old aircraft have performed to the best of their ability. And, they perform like few other aircraft do.
“It’s not like a civilian aircraft that goes up and comes down,” said Master Sgt. William Harris, 302nd Maintenance Group aircraft structural maintenance section chief. “They do high-tech maneuvers and hard landings. That puts a lot of stress on the airframe and systems on the aircraft. They land on unimproved runways and rocks fly up into the tires and tear up the fuselage and landing gear.”
Whatever condition the aircraft are in when they return, the group works as a team to solve any problem.
“Everyone’s of the same mindset to fix it right the first time and not have to go back. We try to alleviate the quick fix concept,” Harris said.
According to the aircraft maintainers, one of the reasons “black letter” designations take place at the 302nd Airlift Wing is because of the joint effort brought about by Total Force Integration. In October 2009, Active Duty Airmen of the 52nd Airlift Squadron joined with their Air Force Reserve counterparts here. The association partnered the Air Force Reserve with of an Active Duty flying squadron, Active Duty aircraft maintainers and Active Duty aerial porters.
“They (52nd Airlift Squadron) brought a lot of different looks to the table,” said Master Sgt. Linda Armstrong, the integrated avionics supervisor for the 302nd Maintenance Squadron. “We got four brand new Airmen out of tech(nical) school and it put us back into training mode. You have to know what you’re training, which makes us better.”
And these “black letter” aircraft might not be the last the maintainers see. Several aircraft in the wing’s inventory are close to earning the distinction, with only a handful of discrepancies.
Although the “black letter” accolades are appreciated and deserved, these are not the reasons the maintainers work so hard.
“We want to give the flight crews the best, quality aircraft we can,” said Chief Master Sgt. Larry Crooks, 302nd MXS maintenance superintendent. “That’s the goal.”
(Editor’s Note: In addition to Harris and Armstrong, Crooks also wanted to recognize the following Airmen for their contributions to the black letter aircraft designations: Senior Master Sgt. Michael Sinchak, 302nd MXS communications and navigation shop chief; Master Sgt. Edward Falls,52nd AS production supervisor; Master Sgt. Wade Claussen, 52nd AS maintenance superintendent; Master Sgt. Michael Bruner, 302nd MXS fuel cell shop chief; and Tech. Sgt. Ronald Jordan, 302nd MXS electronics and environmental acting shop chief.)