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Released: Apr. 9, 2003

Maintainers prepare F-15s for wild blue yonder

By Airman 1st Class Kerry Johnson
1st Fighter Wing Public Affairs

LANGLEY AIR FORCE BASE, Va. (ACCNS) -- Senior Airman Jon Wilcox stands before the hulking mass of gray metal filled with jet fuel, reaches up and pats the jet's nose.

"Take good care of him," he says.

He steps back, signals to "him" - the pilot - as he marshals the F-15, preparing his jet for its sortie.

Airman Wilcox just hopes it will be a good day for his plane.

For any dedicated crew chief, such as Airman Wilcox, a 27th Aircraft Maintenance Unit dedicated crew chief, a "good day" translates into his plane performing as it should, with no incidents, and being available for training missions.

That kind of day, a "Code 1" day, is what the dedicated crew chief is responsible for.

DCC's are chosen by rank based on experience and exceptional performance. They are then assigned an F-15. These prerequisites for a DCC are vital, considering their task.

"DCC's are responsible for all service, inspections and preparations for their particular jet, nose to tail, start to finish," said Master Sgt. Joe Dowd, the 27th AMU technical aircraft maintenance section chief. "It's an incredible amount of responsibility and their critical attention to detail never ceases to amaze me."

The title of dedicated crew chief comes hand in hand with many obligations a parent might identify with.

At the end of an 11-hour shift, the DCC must "bed down" the jet, which may include configurement changes, whether it's for pilot training or real world proficiencies.

Bath time takes three to four people up to four hours to clean the jet. A DCC takes pride in the appearance of his jet, Sergeant Dowd said.

"It becomes a bit of a rivalry -- comparing whose jet looks better, or comparing stats on all the planes," he said. "They earn bragging rights with all the dedication and pride invested into their aircraft. That pride multiplies when they see their jet in the air."

While a DCC's jet is in the air, he or she also must help peers with other F-15s, or tackle the administrative aspect of their job. This includes training records or paperwork of service performed on the jet.

On the flipside, when a jet is grounded due to one of the thousands of things that could go wrong, DCCs will focus all their effort on identifying the problem, fixing it and getting their aircraft back on the runway as soon as possible, Sergeant Dowd said.

Service on an F-15 can take hours or days, depending on the problem.

"The job can be frustrating, but you just do the best you can because it's what you have to do," Airman Wilcox said.

"When your jet rolls out of the chocks, there's a sense of pride ... you can say to yourself, 'there she goes,'" he said.

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