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Pope C-130 crew chiefs achieve zero-defect checklist

by Staff Sgt. Peter Miller
440th Airlift Wing Public Affairs

6/10/2011 - POPE FIELD, N.C. (AFNS) -- At some bases, the perfect check list has never occurred. At others it happens maybe once every 10 to 15 years, but two crew chiefs from the 440th Airlift Wing Maintenance Group both acheived perfect checklist for their aircraft.

Tech. Sergeants Abner Berrios and Alan Hunter earned a "black letter initial", the name given to the rare occasion that a crew chief has obtained a perfect checklist for his aircraft. It means that the aircraft is not just operational, but that it is operationally perfect.

"For us crew chiefs, it is a huge deal," Sergeant Berrios said. "Any time you put your name on an inspection, people's lives depend on it."

A crew chief is the last person on the ground to check the aircraft before it flies. Discrepancies can range from a broken light bulb to modifications required.

"Planes fly. Planes break, and we fix them," Sergeant Hunter said. "Maintenance is a never ending process."

Between flights, crew chiefs schedule inspections, fix brackets, order parts and service the plane. They also install, or arrange installation for mandatory upgrades by communicating and coordinating with many other maintenance shops.

Sergeants Berrios and Hunter each acknowledged that many people from the maintenance group had a hand in the black-letter accomplishments.

"No matter how much we would like to stand here and say we did this by ourselves, it would be impossible," Sergeant Berrios said. "Everybody in maintenance gets credit. It shows that our unit has a lot of pride."

From engine mechanics and electricians to hydraulics and electronic countermeasures specialists, everybody in the group pitched in. They acknowledged the efforts of the sheet-metal shop in particular.

"The sheet-metal shop had an unbelievable amount of work," Sergeant Berrios said, reflecting on what it took to obtain the perfect rating. "They were painting, repairing and making parts constantly."

"There are some parts that can no longer be ordered," said Sergeant Hunter. "The sheet metal workers made them.

"I approached the sheet metal shop numerous times to ask . . . their answer was always, 'Yes.' That was the attitude from throughout the group that allowed us to do this," Sergeant Hunter said.

The crew chiefs used the black-letter project to set a high standard.

"The new crew chiefs are new to the Air Force and they're open to anything," Sergeant Berrios said. "If they learn to slack when they get here, that's what they do until they get out.

"There is a lot of pride that goes into this job," Sergeant Berrios said. "We have one purpose -- to go to war. You bust your butt out on the flightline to maintain this plane, so it is your plane. Nobody works harder or spends more time on the flight line than crew chiefs."

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