March 3, 2009 (by 1st Lt. Matthew Speed) - February 4, 2009 marked an historic event at Cannon Air Force Base, N.M. One of the base's eight MC-130W Combat Spears left the ramp as a "black letter initial".
Airmen with the 73rd Aircraft Maintenance Unit stand in front of a MC-130W Combat Spear on March 2, 2009. In early February the crew chiefs of one of the aircraft was launched as a "black letter initial", which meant that the aircraft was launched with zero discrepancies. [USAF photo by A1C Danielle Martin]
A black letter initial means absolutely nothing is wrong with the aircraft, and resulting in no red marking on the maintenance forms. More specifically, no work orders are due and no parts are on order for that aircraft.
Why is this event so rare and important? Imagine working on an old car. There is always something that needs to be done to the car in order to keep it running. Sometimes, no matter how hard you work, you can never get the car to run or look perfect.
The maintenance crew chiefs assigned to the "black letter initial" aircraft, a 21-year-old MC-130W Combat Spear - not to mention hundreds of times more complicated than any car - were able to accomplish this close-to-miraculous task of a perfect takeoff.
The "black letter initial" aircraft is the newest addition to the MC-130W model aircraft assigned here. The aircraft is the eighth plane placed in the hands of the 73rd Aircraft Maintenance Unit, 27th Special Operations Aircraft Maintenance Squadron.
Since the first Combat Spear arrived here Oct. 1, 2007, no Dedicated Crew Chief has been able to successfully launch his or her aircraft without any write-ups.
That challenge was conquered, however, by the crew chiefs in charge of one particular MC-130W: Staff Sgt. Nolan Garrett (DCC), Senior Airman Chad Tew, Airman 1st Class Michael Chatman and Airman Edward Robertson.
Colonel Mark Fluker, 27th Special Operations Maintenance Group deputy commander, addressed the maintainers who watched as their aircraft left the runway that afternoon, saying, "I've been in the Air Force for 25 and a half years and have only seen this happen three times. Considering the fact that this aircraft was made in 1988, that is an incredible accomplishment!"
Although the crew chiefs listed above have clearly set the standard of performance and excellence, this achievement would not be possible without the collective effort from every person assigned to the 73rd Aircraft Maintenance Unit, all of the squadrons assigned to the 27th Special Operations Maintenance Group and the 27th Special Operations Mission Support Group.
We are a team working toward one common goal - to fly, fight and win. Without the dedication and determination of our maintainers and support personnel, the mission would fail.