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Flying crew chiefs enable Pacific refueling mission

  • Published
  • By Tech. Sgt. James Hodgman
  • 60th Air Mobility Wing Public Affairs

TRAVIS AIR FORCE BASE, Calif. — A KC-10 Extender at Misawa Air Base, Japan, is being prepared to fly a refueling mission in support of operations in the Pacific.

During pre-flight inspections, a hydraulics leak is discovered. Thankfully, two flying crew chiefs from the 660th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron from Travis Air Force Base, California, are ready to fix the problem.

“We had to tighten down the connections from the hose to the reverse motor pumps,” said Staff Sgt. Scott Sanders, 660th AMXS KC-10 flying crew chief. “We used two pipe wrenches to tighten the connections and prevent future leaks. We had it fixed within 20 minutes.”

Working alongside Sanders on that repair was Staff Sgt. Nicholas Kinzer, 660th AMXS assistant flying crew chief. The duo provided maintenance support for a Travis KC-10 from June 1 – 6 as it flew refueling missions in support of U.S. Air Force and international fighter aircraft in the Pacific region.

Thanks to their expertise, the KC-10 they serviced completed a roundtrip journey of more than 9,000 nautical miles and offloaded more than 200,000 pounds of fuel to eight F-15s.

“We are responsible for servicing the jet while we’re on the road and coordinating with our home station to get parts if they’re needed,” said Kinzer. “Whether that’s ensuring the aircraft has the gas and oil it needs or ensuring the tires and hydraulics are safe for flight; it’s our job to service the aircraft.”

Sanders and Kinzer have supported missions in Europe, Asia and half the states in the United States.

Sanders recalled one mission in England when he had to act quickly.

“We were coming back from London and we had to shut down one of the tanks on the aircraft because we had a fuel leak,” he said. “We fixed it within two minutes and enabled the aircraft to return to Travis within 48 hours.”

Capt. Eddie Miller, is a 6th Air Refueling Squadron assistant flight commander for the mission support flight. He also served as the aircraft commander for the Pacific refueling mission.

He said without crew chiefs, the KC-10 wouldn’t fly.

“We don’t fly without them,” he said. “I have had to divert to multiple locations all over the world and my flying crew chiefs provide incredible support. Many locations we go to, the people there may have never seen a KC-10 or know what to do. Crew chiefs take care of that and I completely trust them to fix things. It’s vital they are with us.”

That expertise is priceless, Miller added.

“They’re incredibly knowledgeable to fix problems quickly and that helped us get out of Misawa,” he said. “I trust them to have the jet ready, so when I show up with the rest of my crew, we’re ready to go.”

While they support a vital aspect of the Air Force mission to fly, fight and win, Kinzer said, he and his fellow crew chiefs are just doing what is expected of all Airmen.

“It’s fun to be on the jet and see the impact we have, but everyone in the Air Force serves to advance our priorities and our mission,” he said. “We’re just doing our part.”

That may be true, but just doing their part is keeping Travis crew chiefs incredibly busy.

“Since January, we have supported more than 165 missions,” said Tech. Sgt. Daniel Savelli, 660th AMXS flying crew chief manager. “Those trips range from fighter refueling efforts, desert swap outs and contingency missions to exercise and presidential support, to testing the F-35 Lightning II and KC-46 Pegasus.”

“For one mission back in April, our crew chiefs supported the launch of 12 jets and the offload of more than a million pounds of fuel to 16 receivers,” said Savelli.

Sanders and Kinzer have supported more than 60 missions between them. On this latest trip, they enabled two Air Force F-15C Eagles to fly more than 2,300 miles from Alaska to Japan on June 2 and six more F-15s to fly that same distance to Alaska on June 4. On the final day of their mission, June 6, they ensured the KC-10 was safe to fly nearly 1,900 nautical miles back to Travis.

“It’s significant to turn a wrench on a jet and see the jet do its job,” said Kinzer. “It makes us proud. I can’t imagine doing anything else.”