June 5, 2016 (by SSgt. Julianne Showalter) - “It’s an accomplishment to get a few thousand flight hours, so to fly 12,500 is truly outstanding,” said Col. Joseph Stepp, IV, commander, 145th Operations Group.
CMSgt. Andrew Huneycutt, 145th OSS chief loadmaster, earned the 12,500 Mishap-Free Flying Hour Milestone Award which culminates his 36 year career and dedication to standards at the North Carolina ANGB, Charlotte Douglas IAP, on June 5, 2016. [ANG photo by SSgt. Julianne M. Showalter]
Huneycutt is a Charlotte, N.C., native, and has served in the North Carolina Air National Guard for 36 years. He walked into the recruiter’s office to enlist in January of 1980. His entire career has been spent as a loadmaster on the C-130 Hercules aircraft.
He attributes his accomplishment to learning something new every day, and striving for excellence through aircrew education and hands on experience.
“When you’re first getting started it’s like drinking out of a fire hose, and as you get more experience your abilities improve,” said Huneycutt.
Those who fly with Huneycutt know this award is well deserved, and consider him a true expert.
“He is a pleasure to fly with, and his level of experience gives you a sense of security that everything is taken care of in the back of the aircraft,” said Stepp who flew with Huneycutt during combat missions in 2002.
Attaining the flight hours alone is an accomplishment, but the label of mishap-free is what makes this award a greater display of excellence.
Dating back to the World War II era when the U.S. Air Force was the U.S. Army Air Corps, an average of 1,170 aircraft training accidents occurred monthly which is nearly 40 per day according a published figure by the Army Air Force Statistical Digest.
“If we had that kind of loss in the Air Force today, we’d be out of planes in about four months. The Air Force has made significant milestones in improving aviation safety since then, so to reach a 12,500 milestone in a 30 plus year career is highly significant. Very few people reach that in their careers,” said the 145th Airlift Wing chief safety officer Lt. Col. E.G. “Buck” Shuler, III.
Shuler also said, “He’s very professional, by the book, and he’s one of those guys you just look up to. If I need advice on something going on, he’s the guy I turn to.”
Huneycutt is resolute in following standards and adherence to procedures.
“When you keep your eyes on safety, and everyone on the flight crew backs up one another using aircrew resource management and operational risk management, the flight runs well. You need to know your job as well as a little bit about everyone else’s job. It helps to foresee a mishap before it happens,” said Huneycutt.
The 12,500 Mishap-Free Flying Hour Milestone Award is a landmark, but the members of the 145th Operations Group and the 145th Airlift Wing already knew the excellence displayed by Huneycutt.
“He started flying before a lot of the other loadmasters in his unit were even born. His mentorship and knowledge base is a big deal for others to look up to. It’s been an honor to fly with Andy, he’s in the top five of people I’ve ever flown with if not the top,” said Shuler.