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Tanker in the air? Maintenance put it there

  • Published
  • By Airman 1st Class Lawrence Sena
  • 92nd Air Refueling Wing Public Affairs

The sun sits high in the sky, creating blistering heat on the flightline where a KC-135 Stratotanker waits to carry out another air refueling mission at Dyess Air Force Base, Texas. An Airman makes his way to the tanker, walking through heat waves rising from the ground, sweat dripping from his brow and headset in hand, prepared to inspect his aircraft before takeoff.

To be a maintenance Airman in the Air Force requires grit, knowledge and preparation. There’s also a pressure to perform and provide services to aircraft essential to the U.S. Air Force’s air superiority.

Members from Team Fairchild’s 92nd Aircraft Maintenance Squadron supported Team Fairchild’s KC-135 during a training mission with B-1B Lancers August 13-16 at Dyess Air Force Base, Texas.

"Being a flying crew chief, it is important for us to be ready at all times and keep the jet running," said Senior Airman Zachery Murray, 92nd AMXS flying crew chief. "Otherwise, no one can get the gas they need to successfully complete their mission.

"Our mission is to make the jet 100-percent capable to take off and [fuel] the B-1s here for their training missions," Murray continued. "If the [KC-135] breaks, it is up to us to get the jet fixed and back in the air to support the mission."

Maintaining the KC-135 at home station poses its own challenges. The need for quick-thinking and action becomes even more essential off-station.

“One of the biggest challenges we face as flying crew chiefs is not having the same resources available to us as we would at home station," said Tech. Sgt. Norbert Roland, 92nd AMXS flying crew chief. "You definitely have to understand and know your aircraft, while using the resources available to you to fix the aircraft.”

Proper maintenance is vital not only to the success of the mission, but to the lives of aircrew on board the aircraft. The ability of flying crew chiefs to react quickly and provide solutions is essential in assuring both success and safety.

"Having these mobile crew chiefs is vital to the team and mission," said Maj. Britton Adamson, 384th Air Refueling Squadron pilot. "There have been many situations in past missions where something comes up with the jet and the crew chiefs were able to come through and get us back in the air."

Team Fairchild’s maintenance Airmen continuously keep KC-135s operational worldwide, making them vital to the success of the global reach mission.

“Having these [crew chiefs] out here with us has been vital to the success of this training mission,” said Capt. Howard Palmer, 384th ARS pilot. “Not only did we meet our training requirements, the Lancers [at Dyess] were able to successfully become requalified, and without the crew chiefs being here, that wouldn't have been possible.”