Airmen assigned to the 41st Helicopter Maintenance Unit launch HH-60G Pave Hawks every day.
It’s been three years since they launched one like this, though.
On Aug. 5, the 41st HMU launched a “black letter” HH-60G, a helicopter with zero discrepancies from nose to tail, inside and out.
The term “black letter” refers to the form used by crew chiefs to inspect aircraft. A discrepancy is marked in red ink. When there are zero discrepancies, the form is signed in black ink for a flight-ready aircraft.
“[Black lettering an aircraft] is a huge accomplishment,” said Staff Sgt. James Turnbull, 41st HMU crew chief dedicated to Aircraft 6460. “With how often these aircraft fly and how old they are, they require constant maintenance. So, for there to be no discrepancies on an aircraft is extremely rare and it’s a testament to the dedicated crew chief and [assistant] DCC of the aircraft as well as all the people that have worked on it. I have only heard about [a black letter] and have never seen it done. I’m very proud to have accomplished this milestone with my ADCC. Honestly, this might be the best achievement of my career so far.”
Turnbull said this wasn’t a quick fix. They have worked on A6460 for more than a year to obtain all the needed parts and scheduled maintenance.
“Finding the time to work on my aircraft was the biggest challenge,” Turnbull said. “Senior Airman Brayden Olson, my ADCC, put a lot of time and effort into A6460 and was crucial in making this black letter possible. With 14 helicopters assigned to Moody that require tons of attention and maintenance, some days I’d only be able to look through my aircraft’s forms. Every chance I got, I’d try to knock out one job or fix something that I’d seen on an inspection.”
Aircraft can have minor issues, which are noted on an inspection, but still maintain operational status and are safe to fly. On Turnbull’s HH-60G, though, every issue was resolved through the 41st HMU and 23d Maintenance Squadron’s critical effort.
“It requires coordination with the production staff for time to work your aircraft, along with hours of hard work,” said Capt. Jack Niederhiser, 723d Aircraft Maintenance Squadron maintenance operations officer. “Each aircraft can have a variety of non-mission limiting discrepancies, and it takes the careful planning, coordination and focus of a DCC and their ADCC.”
For their efforts, Turnbull and Olson received a ceremonial plaque from wing leadership.
“I am incredibly proud and motivated,” Niederhiser said. “It’s no secret that Moody is a very active base, with a heavy flying mission. We generate thousands of flight hours every year to keep our operators mission ready. When aircraft fly, they [eventually] need maintenance, especially the Pave Hawk. Although the airframe is getting older, the requirement has remained steady. Thanks to the tireless work of our rescue maintainers, we keep rotors turning. ‘That others may live.’”
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