DAVIS MONTHAN AIR FORCE BASE, Ariz. — The constant strive for perfection, pride in their aircraft, and responsibility of knowing they have someone’s life in their hands; these are a few examples of what A-10C Thunderbolt II crew chiefs have resting on their shoulders each day.
“The never ending pursuit of perfection is what the job demands,” said Senior Airman Yevgeniy Sokolov, 355th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron crew chief. “There can be no mistakes, something as simple as a missed screw can cause us to lose an aircraft.”
Once assigned to a jet, the crew chiefs’ names are placed on their aircraft. This shows their dedication to work, and that they are worthy to have their name on a beast of a jet.
Pride keeps the Airmen working hard every day; they go into work knowing that the aircraft they are assigned to is their responsibility for the day.
“Having our name on the aircraft represents our work,” said Senior Airman Anthony Naugle, 355th AMXS crew chief. “Working on the aircraft, fixing them, has to give you great pride.” There are competitions to show off that satisfaction in their work. Quarterly competitions, such as the Proud Hog Competition, put up each squadron’s best aircraft against each other.
“The aircraft and crew chiefs are judged on mechanical condition and appearance, tool box condition and appearance and crew chief adherence to AFI 36-2903,”said Master Sgt. Jessica Gillespie, 357th Aircraft Maintenance Unit Aircraft Power General section chief.
A crew of quality assurance personnel preforms inspections on the top jets. The jet with the least discrepancies gains points towards an overall score.
“The guys take a lot of pride in their aircraft,” Gillespie said. “Winning Proud Hog for the group is saying that you are the best crew chief on the line. They also get their name on a plaque, a certificate and a coin.”
Winning a competition means you have to know the jet inside and out. Each aircraft is known for having its own personality and quirks and crew chiefs have to learn and adapt to each personality.
“Every jet has its own idiosyncrasies and as the crew chief you get very familiar with each jet’s quirks,” Gillespie said. “These can be caused by a number of things, like different rates of wear in the metal, previous repairs. But there are several times we can’t really explain why a jet ‘acts’ the way it does, so we say it has a personality.”
Every aircraft has something unique about it, something the crew chief has to learn to overcome in order to get their job done and their aircraft safely in the sky.
“Sometimes it’s resetting the system and waiting a moment or shaking the hose a certain way so it creates a better seal,” Gillespie said.
Some crew chiefs even have their own traditions or ritualistic superstitions that they perform before each flight like tapping a wing before take-off, kissing a specific panel, or knocking a panel a number of times, all in hopes that their aircraft will fly smoothly for their pilot.
“Everyone does something that’s the same every time they launch their aircraft,” Sokolov said. “It’s a tradition for them, whether it’s the way they salute, or tap the wing before they taxi out for a launch.”