Fixing to fly: The trust between flyers and crew chiefs

  • Published
  • By Airman 1st Class Devin M. Rumbaugh
  • 86th Airlift Wing Public Affairs

Everyday, aircraft take off and accomplish missions they are tasked with and return home. If the maintenance checklists weren’t completed to spec, the pilots would not be able to fly the aircraft properly, and could ultimately put people’s lives at risk. 

Trust is the reason pilots can fly their aircraft without any hesitation or doubt in the integrity of the aircraft.

“For me there is a never a doubt,” said Capt. Stephan Bitner, 37th Airlift Squadron C-130J Super Hercules co-pilot. “I am very confident in the maintainer’s abilities and knowledge of the aircraft and systems.

Crew chief’s duties include parking the plane upon arrival, identifying and resolving issues with help from the pilot’s input, and cleaning and preparing the aircraft for the next mission.

Bitner said before flights and missions, the crew chiefs will notify the aircrew if a flight issue has occurred before and inform them of the previous issues listed in the aircraft’s documents.

As the crew chiefs work in shifts, and aircrew cycle between aircraft, both sides rely solely on the paperwork and checklists annotated by the previous shift’s crew chiefs.

During flight, if the aircrew encounters issues, they follow checklists to try and resolve the issue. If the issues cannot be resolved midflight, the issue will be resolved upon landing.

  “We’re generally the first ones to talk to the pilots when they land,” said U.S. Air Force Staff Sgt. Matthew Trobough, 86th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron C-130J Super Hercules crew chief. “They tell us of the issues they had during flight, so we try to fix it, or find a specialist who can.”

Bitner said neither can operate without the other. He said pilots can’t fly a plane if it’s not being fixed and crew chiefs don’t need to fix the plane if it doesn’t fly it. He said without maintenance, nothing would get done.  

“Crew chiefs are always mindful of mission timelines and trying to get stuff done so we can press on with our timeline,” said Bitner. “If there are delays, it’s for good reason and they’re trying to help us out.”

Bitner said it gives him a good feeling that the crew chiefs care as much about the missions and plane status and the pilots even though they work on the ground.  

“Even after we’re done flying, they’re still working,” said Bitner.