Upon entering the building known as “Bomberland,” home of the 419th Flight Test Squadron and the Bomber Combined Test Force, you’ll come across a distinctive oil painting that embodies the history, unity and collaboration of the entire combined test force over the years.
A large and important part of that history and collaboration is due to the work that countless engineers, contractors, government employees and crew chiefs, like Tech. Sgt. Chad McBunch, who arrive at Edwards as first-term Airmen and leave their mark at this South Base facility.
“For someone who has been involved with operational test and the verification and validation of technical orders since 2002, I feel it’s only fitting that someone like Sergeant McBunch has been noted in flight test history through this painting for the one decade worth of B-1 upgrades that have been directly affected by his contributions,” said Master Sgt. Cade Peterson, 31st Test & Evaluation Squadron bomber flight chief.
The oil painting, which is currently in the care of the 419th FLTS, depicts a variety of BCTF personnel preparing for a B-1 mission with McBunch’s image in the center of the painting handing a helmet bag to a B-1 pilot.
According to Peterson, the unique thing about Sergeant McBunch’s tenure here is that since his arrival to Edwards as his first duty station in September 2002; he has served the entire period inside the Birk Flight Test Facility, otherwise known as South Base.
“The unique thing about ‘South Base’ is that personnel are geographically separated and isolated inside the borders of the perimeter. With this separation from ‘Main Base,’ many of the outstanding day-to-day actions may not be immediately apparent, and the opportunity to interact with other units is limited,” said Sergeant Peterson. “Sharing his story would help many to understand the contributions of personnel in the BFTF. Essentially, one of the longest- and continuously-serving NCOs at the BFTF who is now preparing to depart Edwards for a new duty station in April of this year. I think it is extremely important to the heritage of Edwards, especially for those first-term Airmen assigned as B-1 crew chiefs, that his contributions be catalogued.”
In addition to the oil painting, Sergeant McBunch’s legacy lives on with the Air Force Flight Test Museum’s acquisition of aircraft tail number 84-049A, a B-1B that served as the platform for flight test at Edwards and an aircraft that McBunch was a dedicated crew chief for. To prove his involvement with the team, Sergeant McBunch’s name remains on the aircraft as “A1C Chad McBunch.”
“Being here in an extremely unique test environment like this, you really get to see all the new software upgrades, to include the usage and capabilities of the B-1 as it transformed from a long-range nuclear deterrent into a close-support, direct-combat airframe over a decade,” said McBunch.
During Sergeant McBunch’s career at the BFTF, he has directly worked on the following B-1 upgrades:
- B-1 Block E upgrades
- Laser Joint Direct Attack Munition integration
- Mixed load software integration
- Sniper Targeting Pod
- Cockpit and software modernization
Aside from working on these upgrades over the span of a decade, McBunch was noted at the squadron for reviewing more than 8,900 pages and removing approximately 900 specific discrepancies that they identified in just one year.
Capt. Tara Jackson, 31st TES bomber suitability flight commander, said that this was just one of the many areas that set McBunch apart in his unit.
“Sergeant McBunch’s dedication and diligence over the past 10 years will be missed by the 31st TES, especially since his expertise on bomber test programs will be difficult to replace,” said Jackson.
When asked about what advice he could impart on first term Airmen who will arrive to provide support for the B-1s future upgrades, he left with these comments:
“For those arriving here as a first term Airman, I would recommend that you seek out the challenge and take it upon yourself. It’s very easy to lay back and say it’s too difficult, too complicated or too different from a main operating base or what I’m used to. If you embrace it and go with it, you can pick up a very unique skill set and you can find the challenge to be very rewarding. I have and I am extremely thankful for it,” added McBunch.
“Most of all, it’s humbling, because you normally don’t spend more than 10 years anywhere without leaving a mark. Personally, when I was younger, I always tried to stay out of the social limelight, but it’s really interesting to stand back now and say that I did that, I was a part of that or I had a hand in every bit of it. It definitely gives you a better perspective of how what you do now impacts the mark you will leave for future generations.”