By Airman Kevin Sommer Giron
19th Airlift Wing Public Affairs
Service members assigned to the 314th Maintenance Squadron were recognized for an accomplishment not often witnessed in the aircraft maintenance world Aug. 11 at Little Rock Air Force Base.
This achievement, commonly known as a Black-Letter Initial, occurs when an aircraft flies with zero minor discrepancies. Most aircraft fly with few minor discrepancies that pose little to no effect while in flight.
“I’ve been in the military for 17 years, and I’ve never seen a Black-Letter in my career,” said U.S. Air Force Master Sgt. Chad Bond, 314th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron lead production.
In every aircraft, there are forms where all discrepancies are written. Those discrepancies are marked by red symbols indicating the flying status of a specific aircraft by an aircraft inspector.
When there are no red marks, the dedicated crew chief initials the forms, marking the accomplishment and stating the aircraft is 100 percent ready to fly.
The most recent aircraft to achieve this milestone was a 1998 model C-130J Tail No. 1355, one of the oldest aircraft in the 314th Airlift Wing fleet.
“This aircraft has taken a majority of the training missions in the 314th AW which is indicated by its estimated flight hours,” Bond said.
It’s easier to black-letter a new aircraft then it is an older one. The way this aircraft performs, to this day, speaks volumes of the kind of maintenance the 314th AW maintainers perform, Bond said.
“This is something I’ve never seen in my eight years in the Air Force,” said U.S. Air Force Staff Sgt. Travis Barnes, 314th Maintenance Squadron dedicated crew chief of C-130J Tail No. 1355. “It’s an honor to be a part of this, especially with an aircraft that has so many flying hours.”
Assigned crew chiefs to Tail No. 1355 are: U.S. Air Force Senior Airman William Autry, U.S. Air Force Staff Sgt. Travis Barnes and U.S. Air Force Senior Airman Tyler Shanklin.
“Shanklin took the initiative,” Barnes said. “He recognized that we only had a few maintenance write ups left and took care of it. He put his blood, sweat and tears into the aircraft for the Black-Letter.”
According to the 314th AW factsheet, the 314th AW provides the world’s best C-130 Combat Airlift training to maintainers and pilots. Quality training is what leads to the success of the mission and achievements performed by the individuals working on the aircraft.
“It is the will of the maintainers and crew chiefs that made this happen, but there are a lot more moving parts that made this achievement possible,” Bond said. “It would never happen without the help and support of the 19th Airlift Wing, the 314th Maintenance Group as a whole and the people of Little Rock Air Force Base.”