Story and photos by
Airman 1st Class Jennifer Gonzales
86th Airlift Wing Public Affairs
Maintaining an aircraft is not something one person can do on their own. It takes a team of dedicated individuals who are knowledgeable and not afraid to get their hands dirty.
The 86th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron is one of those teams, and it’s their job to ensure the aircraft can fly safely.
“A flying crew chief is the aircraft mechanic whenever it flies,” said Staff Sgt. Alec Copper, 86th AMXS flying crew chief. “We’re a part of air crew, so in case the plane breaks down in whichever location we’re in, it’s our job to fix it.”
Many things can go wrong with a plane, and it’s a flying crew chief’s responsibility to diagnose and fix the issues that may occur. If the aircraft were a patient in a hospital, they would be the doctors who work to heal it. It’s not easy and there’s always something new to learn on the job.
“We’re consistently learning every single time we fly, about the aircraft and how it works,” Copper said.
Staff Sgt. Javier Amaya-Sanchez, 86th AMXS flying crew chief, said they rarely face the same issue.
Depending on the problem, the crew in charge of the C-130J can work long and odd hours.
“One of the biggest challenges is the schedule,” said Amaya-Sanchez. “Sometimes, we’re out here working 19+ hours depending on the issue.”
Even though the work can be heavy, the mindset to succeed in this career is one of positivity, open-mindedness, and most importantly, a passion for the work that needs to be done.
“We can’t be negative,” Copper said. “We have to be outgoing towards the air crew, we have to be welcoming, we have to be polite. We have to be very professional in this job, as well, so having that professional mindset is key.
“We constantly have to be on our feet and alert,” said Airman 1st Class Jenna Bowen, 86th AMXS assistant flying crew chief. “I think we all need a level of passion, as well, for what we do.”
“That’s the most important thing, too, is taking pride in this job,” Copper said.
Although the flying crew chiefs love what they do, it can take a toll on their personal lives and families.
“It’s highly rewarding, but it comes with a huge sacrifice,” said Amaya-Sanchez.
Holidays and important dates can be missed, but, despite these challenges, the flying crew chiefs always pull through.
Without them, the mission would come to a standstill. The passion and love they put into their aircraft shines each time it flies through the skies.