December 2, 2014 (by SSgt. Whitney Amstutz ) - Airmen assigned to the 455th Expeditionary Aircraft Maintenance Squadron's Aircraft Maintenance Unit accomplished a rare feat November 12, when a C-130J was cleared for takeoff in a black-letter initial status.
Airmen assigned to the 455th EAMXS's AMU watch as a C-130J prepares for takeoff in Black Letter Initial status on November 12, 2014 at Bagram Airfield, Afghanistan. Black Letter Initial, an extreme rarity in the maintenance realm, indicates the send-off of an aircraft with zero discrepancies. [USAF photo by Capt. Jennifer Bosco]
The expression black-letter initial originates from the 781H form used to inspect C-130s before and after each flight. Crew chiefs annotate discrepancies in the 781 forms with an x, a dash, or a forward slash in red pen. In the uncommon event zero discrepancies are found, the crew chief has the honor of initialing the form in black ink.
"My team has worked extremely hard and devoted countless hours to the task of researching and replacing parts to clear every discrepancy down to the smallest screw," said Master Sgt. Jeremy Doggett, 455 EAMXS AMU production superintendent. "Furthermore, we have managed a delicate balance of flying the aircraft in support of the Air Tasking Order without missing a beat. This aircraft has a mission-capable rate of 97.3 percent and flew 92 sorties throughout Afghanistan and surrounding countries in the last month alone."
In spite of the intense operations tempo, maintainers carved out opportunities to ensure aircraft #05-3145
, recently christened "The Black Letter Beast", was performing to the best of its ability.
"The primary crew chiefs assigned to 3145 are Senior Airman Ryan Hutchins and Airman 1st Class Adam Zaremba," Doggett said. "In addition to the hard work these two outstanding Airmen contributed, all 101 maintainers hailing from Little Rock Air Force Base, Arkansas, put their best foot forward to make this happen."
Accomplishing the black-letter initial flight required Doggett to coordinate with maintenance partners both stateside, and in other regions of Afghanistan.
"In addition to having a top-notch team, it took coordination from our maintenance staff back home to get all the parts required and the aircraft records needed to make this possible," Doggett said. "Our outstanding aircrews assigned to the 774th Expeditionary Airlift Squadron also played a huge roll in taking care of "The Beast" when she was out hacking missions over Afghanistan and surrounding areas."
For Doggett and his crew, the black-letter initial is a tangible representation of the devotion and pride he and his crew take in every maintenance action they complete, from cradle to grave.
"I see the fruits of my labor every day," Doggett said. "Whether it be directing maintenance or scheduling aircraft to fly, my job is very near the tip of the spear. Although I don't fly the aircraft, I ensure that mission-ready aircraft are provided to flight crews day in and day out in support of the ATO to deliver cargo, personnel, perform medevac missions or any other mission. We keep our aircraft on the ready for flight at a moment's notice, anywhere needed."