McChord crew chiefs - More than turning wrenches

  • Published
  • By Senior Airman Jacob Jimenez
  • 62nd Airlift Wing Public Affairs

C-17 Globemaster III aircraft on McChord Field cannot takeoff without the help of the 62nd Maintenance Group crew chiefs. A jack of all trades and a generalist in aircraft maintenance, crew chiefs are responsible for maintaining all of the 48 C-17s assigned to McChord.

“We are the first line of defense when it comes to maintenance,” said Senior Airman Facundo Santamina, 62nd Aircraft Maintenance Squadron crew chief. “We are the first ones on the flightline and the first ones to fix it. If we can't, we will call a specialist.”


Being the first in line of responsibility to maintain aircraft, crew chiefs are charged with ensuring aircraft are airworthy and ready to fly at a moment’s notice.

To ensure the safety of aircraft, crew chiefs have a large number of duties they are trained in and perform regularly and one of those is pre-flighting aircraft.

“Preflights are done for every aircraft that takes off within a 72-hour window from departure,” said Santamina. “We look for general safety items.”


“A standard preflight makes sure the aircraft is airworthy by looking for anything broken, lights not working, faulty systems or issues with the landing gear.”  


To perform a prefilight, crew chiefs have to have a general knowledge of many different maintenance specialties.

“A good crew chief is jack of all trades,” said Santamina. “A good crew chief will know specifics of different aircraft systems and will always be learning about their assigned airframe.”


In order to inspect and diagnose aircraft maintenance issues, crew chiefs go through more than five months of technical training and many months of on-the-job training. They are required to adhere to strict technical orders and checklists for every maintenance action performed.  


“The challenging part is that we have so much to learn, and that we are expected to know so much,” said Santamina. “There is so much we need to know and to be familiar with. There is way more that goes into it than just turning wrenches and screws.”


Besides pre-flighting and coordinating maintenance of aircraft, crew chiefs are the first and last person that aircrew see when departing and arriving at McChord Field. They are responsible for marshalling all aircraft leaving and arriving on the flightline.


"We launch, recover and maintain aircraft,” said Santamina. “We do whatever we have to do to get a jet in the air and take care of it when it gets back down.”


Without crew chiefs, missions couldn’t be accomplished, said Master Sgt. Kelly Martin, 62nd AMXS section chief.


“Crew chiefs at McChord are a very important part of the mission,” said Martin. “They’re responsible for getting the aircraft ready for daily training flight activities, and global mobility missions.”


 Working around the clock, McChord crew chiefs provide maintenance expertise in any situation, said Martin.


“They’re dedicated to getting the mission accomplished every day no matter what working conditions, time frame, or outdoor weather they will have to deal with,” said Martin. “They get the aircraft off the ground safely and on-time.”