MacDill crew chiefs keep tankers fit to fly

  • Published
  • By Senior Airman Rito Smith
  • 6th Air Mobility Wing Public Affairs

When it comes to maintaining the KC-135 Stratotanker aircraft at MacDill Air Force Base, Florida, there is one group that prides themselves on being the first and final defense of each aircraft.

“As a crew chief, I am the last person to touch the aircraft before it flies,” said Senior Airman Austin Holbert, a flightline crew chief assigned to the 6th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron. “I launch and recover the aircraft. I do all of the necessary servicing and maintenance of my aircraft until a problem comes up that requires a specialist.”

With aircraft at MacDill flying everyday doing training and real-world missions the Airmen maintaining them realize the amount of attention to detail they need when it comes to inspections is paramount.

Crew chiefs perform a variety of inspections for each aircraft based on how often the aircraft is scheduled to fly.

“We do pre-flight inspections every 72 hours, which tell us that the aircraft is good to fly for at least 72 hours from the time the inspection was completed,” said Holbert. “We also do through-flight inspections which are done every time the jet lands and needs to fly again within the 72-hour period.”

Crew chiefs also perform quick turn inspections, which are basic inspections that make sure the aircraft is safe to fly in order to respond to a short notice tasking to support combatant commands.

They are responsible for having a basic knowledge of every aspect of their aircraft from engine systems to hydraulic systems.

Crew chiefs pride themselves with being responsible for the health of the fleet.

“We have a dedicated crew chief program, which means each crew chief is assigned a tail number that corresponds with a jet, which we will work on,” said Holbert. “We know which jet is ours, how that jet works, what to look for, and most importantly, we take pride in knowing at the end of the day we were responsible for that aircrafts ability to support the mission.”

Although they have dedicated jets, there are times when Airmen work together to ensure aircraft are capable of flying.

“Holbert is always looking for ways to help with other aircraft,” said Staff Sgt. Cody Plopper, a crew chief assigned to the 6th AMXS. “If he is not working on an active task he is out with another Airman helping them fix the aircraft.”

As a crew chief, Holbert emphasized that he enjoys knowing he was the last one to touch the jet, and he was responsible for making the mission happen.

“I just love working on tankers,” said Holbert. “I will always take pride in the work I do out here every single day.”