Knights Take Flight

by Maj. Lou Marnell
86th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron commander

The Blue Knights, Airmen in the 86th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron, live our Air Force core values every day. Their contributions ensure the Air Force mission is accomplished through their hard work and dedication. Among these maintenance professionals is a unique group known as the Flying Crew Chiefs.

Flying Crew Chiefs are a select group of individuals who are handpicked due to their high standards and technical abilities. A crew chief is responsible for the day-to-day maintenance of assigned aircraft and performs post-flight/pre-flight inspections, changes tires and brakes, ensures the aircraft forms are documented, and assists other technicians. When clearing a grounding write-up, one technician will sign off the job as the “corrected by” and a 7-level will inspect their work and sign off the “inspected by” portion of the forms.

Now, take a FCC and their responsibility increases dramatically. An FCC is not only responsible for normal day-to-day tasks but must also learn other AFSCs’ tasks. This is because they travel with their aircraft on the road and are responsible for keeping vital Air Mobility Division tasked missions going. As our aircraft fly EUCOM, AFRICOM and CENTCOM missions, these incredible maintainers are cross utilized trained across other maintenance specialties. This allows us to send one maintainer on the road and keep our missions going. That is quite a responsibility for a staff sergeant or technical sergeant as they make tough decisions and are relied on heavily to do a job that may take several maintainers. These Airmen are allowed to sign off their own jobs in the forms.

What does it take to be an FCC? First, a maintainer must have 12 months of experience on assigned aircraft. For C-130Js, this is tough because it is still a fairly new aircraft, and we get our manning from various airframes. Once they are task qualified, they must get CUT trained for other specialties and become proficient in these areas. The FCC manager and crew chief section chief will then screen their records and recommend them to conduct orientation and check flights to gauge their conduct and ability to meet the demanding standards. Then, they must be interviewed by the aircraft maintenance unit superintendent and be approved by the commander. This process can take almost 18 months to complete.

I wanted to take this opportunity to highlight a few of these outstanding performers. Staff Sgts. Bronshay Limson and Luis Serrano are C-130J FCCs and each have flown more than 200 sorties since becoming FCCs. They were instrumental in conducting missions to Libya in support of Operation Odyssey Dawn and Unified Protector.

They helped the 37th Airlift Squadron ensure more than 1,000 tons of cargo, and 1,000 personnel were transported without any major delays.

They also delivered humanitarian relief to more than 800 Egyptian refugees during this operation.

Additionally, they played a major role in ensuring their aircraft were mission capable, allowing operations to meet strict slot times in support of humanitarian relief to the earthquakes in Turkey and wildfires in Israel.

Finally, these two NCOs are vital to teaching our future FCCs by relaying their experiences and assisting with on-the-job training.

Our squadron doesn’t support just C-130J missions. We have eight FCCs who support distinguished visitors on C-40B missions. They fly with DVs around the world and are hand selected to accomplish this demanding, highly visible mission. They are sent to school for four months to learn how to maintain the military version of the Boeing 737-700 and it takes a total of 10 months to get fully certified.

Staff Sgt. Jordan Seylee has been flying with the C-40 since 2011 and was a distinguished graduate from the Boeing engineers course. He has flown more than 18 missions so far. He has flown to such locations as Afghanistan and Africa while transporting such dignitaries as COMISAF, ambassadors, SACEUR and other high-level dignitaries.

We all have outstanding Airmen and demand a lot from them as we continue to draw down our force. We put a lot of trust and faith into these incredible maintainers.

As I stated, they are relied upon heavily to do a job that may take two or more maintainers to do at home station. They will fly on a sortie and be expected to recover and turn the aircraft for the next sortie before they are done with their duty day. This select bunch of Airmen must embrace and live our core values to ensure we generate safe, reliable aircraft every day.

Thanks for all you do!