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Black Letter Day: Scott maintainers produce impressive series of discrepancy-free flights

932nd aircraft maintainers earn black letter event for dedication to mission.

Master Sgt. Patrick Alvarado, 932nd Maintenance Squadron dedicated crew chief for tail number 0730, poses for a portrait on the Scott Air Force Base flight line Jan. 18, 2018. Alvarado's leadership and dedication to his aircraft lead to the rare Black Letter event. (U.S. Air Force photo by Lt. Col. Stan Paregien)

Members of the 932nd MXS earn a rare black letter event for their dedication to the mission.

A team of aircraft maintainers with the 932nd Airlift Wing Maintenance Group earned a rare accomplishment with a third "black letter", an event highlighting zero discrepancies or issues prior to take-off. Pictured left to right: Senior Airman Sarah Neuverth, aircraft engine technician, Tech, Sgt. Jessica Adams aircraft engine technician, Staff Sgt John Voyles, aircraft engine technician, Staff Sgt. Gloria Rocha, aircraft electrician, Master Sgt. Mike Guthrie aircraft electric shop non-commissioned officer in charge, Master Sgt. Doug Hunter, airframe, power general flight chief, Senior Airman Issac Watson, crew chief, Tech. Sgt. Brandon Zangeneh, crew chief, Senior Airman Aaron Aubuchon, crew chief, Senior Airman Zachary Keeven, crew chief, Master Sgt. Chris Wagoner, aircraft hydraulic shop NCOIC, and SMSgt Bo Wilcox, production superintendent, not pictured, Master Sgt. Patrick Alvarado, dedicated crew chief for aircraft tail number 0730. (U.S Air Force photo by Christopher Parr)

Some Air Force aircraft maintainers can go an entire career without achieving a black letter flight, but a dedicated crew chief at the Air Force Reserve’s 932nd Airlift Wing, Scott Air Force Base, Illinois, signed his name to three black letter flights within a four-month period recently.

A black letter flight occurs when an aircraft flies with zero discrepancies. Maintainers are required to annotate every discrepancy they find on an aircraft, no matter how minor. Of course, airplanes aren’t allowed to fly if they are not safe, but it’s not uncommon for aircraft to be turned over to pilots with a number of smaller fixes that have yet to be completed.

Master Sgt. Patrick Alvarado, the dedicated crew chief of the C-40C with tail number 0730 at Scott, had three black letter flights within a four-month period in 2017.

“Flying on a black letter plane is almost an impossible task when you consider we are talking about a machine that is built with more than 600,000 parts that must all be maintained within stringent limits,” Chief Master Sgt. Del Deatherage, 932nd Maintenance Group superintendent, said.

“Sergeant Alvarado’s technical talent, leadership of maintenance actions on his aircraft and attention to detail resulted in three scenarios where not one single discrepancy existed on his aircraft. This does not happen very often because we often have discrepancies that do not affect the airworthiness of the aircraft and are just waiting on time and parts, in most cases, to complete the repair action,” Deatherage said.

Alvarado was recognized for his achievement at the 932nd AW’s November unit training assembly and he praised his fellow maintainers for their hard work and dedication.

“The 932nd Maintenance Group has dedicated crew chiefs responsible for each of our four aircraft. These dedicated crew chiefs are tied at the hip to their aircraft. They are the tip of the spear for our maintenance effort. Sergeant Alvarado takes a great deal of pride in ownership of his jet. He’s serious about what he does and he’s been doing it consistently for a long time. It’s humbling to work with women and men who have a laser focus to ensure the job gets done the right way, every time, all the time,” Deatherage said.

Master Sgt. Douglas Hunter, the 932nd Maintenance Squadron crew chief section supervisor, explained some of the things Alvarado and his crew had to accomplish during the four-month period.

“The team supported an engine swap, removal and replacement of the number three window, and the removal, repair and replacement of an inboard trailing edge flap,” Hunter said. “All three of these were completed within a week of each other following an A-check inspection. This work by itself is remarkable, but countless other tasks were completed to get the aircraft to the point of perfection.

“Many technical training orders have been planned out and completed by our team members. Hundreds of man-hours have been spent inspecting and re-inspecting every system. This team – our team – does amazing work. This is only one measurement that proves that.”

Col. Sharon Johnson, commander of the 932nd Maintenance Group, is justifiably proud of her team.

“This is my fourth maintenance group command with 36 years of service in the United States Air Force and this is only the second time I’ve had the pleasure of working with a black letter crew chief,” she said. “This accomplishment speaks volumes for Master Sgt. Alvarado’s commitment and the maintenance team’s focus on excellent maintenance practices, policies and support. I walked into an amazing maintenance team and look forward to seeing greatness like this from the entire team.”