Airmen assigned to the 86th Maintenance Group on Ramstein Air Base, launch C-130J Super Hercules aircraft every day.
But it’s been three years since they launched one like this.
The 86th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron’s responsibility is maintaining the 86th Airlift Wing’s fleet. The 86th Maintenance Squadron works to maintain all the support equipment and individual parts needed to maintain the fleet.
On May 18, the maintainers launched a ‘Black Letter’ aircraft, a plane with zero maintenance issues from nose to tail, inside and out.
“To black letter an aircraft you have to sign off on every discrepancy on the aircraft,” said Staff Sgt. Kyle Shea, 86th AMXS dedicated crew chief.
Many aircraft have simple superficial issues which are noted on an inspection but still maintain operational status and are safe to fly. But on Shea’s Herc, every issue was resolved thanks to the hard work of both the 86th AMXS and the 86th MXS.
Shea hasn’t seen a black letter in his nine years of fixing Hercs.
“This is very important for the maintenance group and the airlift wing,” said Shea. “Our aircraft need to be in top-notch shape for the missions we support all around the world. But to get them there is a lot of hard work.”
To make this happen Shea and his assistant crew chief, Airman 1st Class Kyle Hodge, worked countless hours and spent many long days working on tail 5822, Hodge said.
“We had a lot of dedication and support from the 86th AMXS and 86th MXS to be able to get to where we are now,” said Hodge.
Shea said that this wasn’t a quick fix. They have worked on tail 5822 since January to obtain all the needed parts and correct all the issues, no matter how small.
“The 86th AMXS and 86th MXS worked hard together to make this happen,” said Tech. Sgt. Robert Paradis, 86th MXS isochronal inspection section chief. “The 86th AMXS knows they can count on us and we’ll do whatever we can to get the mission accomplished.”
Shea and Hodge are the first crew chiefs for their plane, which they nicknamed “The Yeager Express,” in honor of retired Brig. Gen. Chuck Yeager.
For their efforts, Shea and Hodge flew with the aircraft on its initial black letter flight.