Flying crew chiefs: Airmen provide peace of mind, support to aircraft, aircrews during missions

  • Published
  • By Tyler Hemstreet
  • 62nd Airlift Wing Public Affairs
Though living out of a duffel bag for weeks on end, sleeping on anything but a mattress and being away from home for extended amounts of time aren't exactly conditions that can make a job easy, they are issues flying crew chiefs deal with on a routine basis.

And that's usually just fine with them, said Senior Airman Kenneth Wimer, 62nd Aircraft Maintenance Squadron flying crew chief.

Packing a tool box and a laptop computer replete with plans and instructions on how to fix a myriad of problems, flying crew chiefs travel with aircrews to provide peace of mind for the pilots by fixing any problems that come up in the air or at locations where there isn't maintenance support.

"It's nice for pilots," Airman Wimer said of the increased confidence pilots have in the mission when flying crew chiefs are on board. "They're usually like, 'If we have a crew chief, then we're good.'" 

Flying crew chiefs also get to travel the globe, Airman Wimer said.

"I've got to go to plenty of great locations -- Thailand, Korea, Guam, Turkey and Germany," said Airman Wimer, rattling off some of his favorites.

But the job isn't all fun and games, said Tech. Sgt. Aaron Short, 62nd AMXS, who's been a flying crew chief for seven years.

Flying crew chiefs can face new maintenance challenges on every flight, Sergeant Short said.

"Just when you get confident in repairing one thing, something else goes wrong," Sergeant Short said.

But Sergeant Short said he welcomes those situations because he enjoys the challenges of getting into the different career fields and seeing how they work and how to fix the problems that arise.

"The troubleshooting is the most demanding part of the job, but you learn a lot about it," Sergeant Short said. "Once you do that, it helps you better explain the problem to a technician if they need to talk you through fixing it."

By conducting thorough checks of the plane and topping off the oil level in the engines when it is needed at each landing, Sergeant Short said the work helps out ground maintenance crews and gives him more time to address other problems, should any come up.

"By being proactive, it gives you time to react to anything else," he said.

After all the checks are completed, sometimes the flying crew chiefs have time to help out the loadmasters and aerial port Airmen with unloading and loading pallets, Airman Wimer said.

In the bigger picture, it's about building a solid relationship with the aircrew, Sergeant Short said. 

"You have to work to establish a rapport and build trust with the crew."

It all contributes to making the mission go as smoothly as possible, he said.

Flying crew chiefs also have the opportunity to not only bring comfort to their own aircrew, but other Airmen at deployed locations.

Because they are constantly flying in and out of deployed locations, flying crew chiefs are able to bring Airmen back certain luxuries such as steaks, sausages, soda and sweets.

Airman Wimer had the opportunity recently to bring back a cooler full of steaks from Germany to barbeque for some Airmen stationed in the desert.

"They loved it," he said. "They were like little kids opening presents on Christmas."