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Flying crew chiefs keep the mission going

  • Published
  • By Senior Airman Alexander Merchak
  • 60th Air Mobility Wing Public Affairs

ANDERSEN AIR FORCE BASE, Guam — A Team Travis aircrew comprised of three different units transported cargo via a KC-10 Extender assigned to Travis Air Force Base, California, to Andersen Air Force Base, Guam, Dec. 19 – 21, 2022.

The KC-10 is typically known for its air refueling capabilities. However, it acted solely as a cargo tanker for this mission, moving 40,000 pounds of cargo for U.S. Naval Base, Guam, then transporting 26,000 pounds of cargo back to Travis AFB.

During KC-10 missions, maintenance professionals known as flying crew chiefs (FCCs) provide support to the pilots and crew. FCCs perform all maintenance duties on flying missions, including but not limited to electrical, hydraulics and communication navigation.

Three FCCs attached to the 660th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron supported the mission to Andersen AFB.

“It can be long hours, troubleshooting the jet, putting in oxygen, and helping refuel, all the while being the first out to the jet and last to leave,” said U.S. Air Force Staff Sgt. Alec Havens, 660th AMXS FCC. “Ultimately, the mission doesn’t happen without us.”

Havens says maintainers pride themselves on keeping flight plans on schedule.

Havens, who completed three flights under supervision – a prerequisite to being an official FCC, has only solidified his feelings toward being a maintainer.

“Flying with the aircrew has allowed me to travel to different places in the world and have many new experiences,” Havens said. “These experiences are the reward in my eyes; it is what makes this job so great.”

Capt. Linette Westley, 9th Air Refueling Squadron KC-10 Extender pilot, says the FCCs she flies with have a significant impact on keeping the mission moving forward.

“When something is wrong with the jet, they are our go-to crew members,” Westley said. “We rely upon our combined knowledge and their expertise to help us resolve a problem, be able to lean forward and take off the next day.”

Aircrew and FCCs maintain a close relationship.

“There has to be trust between us for the mission to be successful,” Havens said. “The [aircrew] trusts we will fix problems and trusts our judgment on whether the plane can fly, and we trust that they will get us to the destination safely.”

According to Havens, a mentor once told him to watch the aircraft he worked on through the mission takeoff. He stressed it is important to remember the mission the aircraft is supporting whether that be refueling fighter jets, returning someone back to their family or delivering cargo. This piece of wisdom allowed him to find new appreciation for his position and his ability to make an impact alongside the aircrew.