High flying maintenance

  • Published
  • By Senior Airman Stuart Bright
  • 2nd Bomb Wing Public Affairs

In the late hours of the night, there is the thunderous roar of the U.S. Air Force B-52H Stratofortress landing at the runway. After taxing and parking, one of the Airmen, suited up in a green one-piece suit and helmet, disembark and start inspecting and performing maintenance on the jet.

Some flights, an Airman from the 2nd Aircraft Maintenance Squadron will join the B-52 for a flight to make sure the aircraft makes it to the destination safely and is ready to fly once it lands.

“The purpose of the flying crew chief is to enhance mission effectiveness by providing qualified maintenance support for aircraft at locations other than home station,” said Senior Master Sgt. David Gibson, 2nd AMXS 96th Aircraft Maintenance Unit superintendent, deployed from Barksdale Air Force Base, Louisiana.

Tech. Sgt. Gregory Oliver, 2nd AMXS 96th AMU communications navigations technician, is one of those Airmen who are certified to be a flying crew chief on the B-52.

“We are essentially passengers on the aircraft, though we help the aircrew troubleshoot some things,” said Oliver. “However, when we land, we hit the ground running. We service the jet and get it ready to fly again.”

Serving in the Air Force since 2007, Oliver has worked on the B-52 his entire career.

“I was reading all of the job titles and descriptions and this seemed like the coolest job I found,” Oliver said. “This is my first experience doing maintenance.”

Oliver acts as a liaison between the maintenance and operations squadrons, gaining a greater insight into the mission of the B-52.

“I get to see the operations side of things which we don’t normally see on the ground,” explained Oliver.

Maintainers such as Oliver don’t fly on all missions. A crew chief will be assigned to fly when the jet is scheduled to land somewhere there isn't B-52 maintenance support.

Being a flying crew chief is a position most maintainers don’t get to experience. To become one, a crew chief must be at the top of their career field and complete hanging harness training, a flight equipment course and go through the altitude chamber.

“Oliver is an outstanding maintenance professional,” Gibson said. “He is in the top 1% of his career field and is highly respected in the Barksdale community.”

Whenever he gets the opportunity, Oliver will try to get back and fly in the jet. He also isn’t afraid to brag about what he does to his friends and family.

“It is the coolest experience I’ve had in my career so far,” Oliver said.

Having both flown on and fixed the B-52 during the Bomber Task Force Europe 20-1, Oliver feels like his job has a lot more meaning.

“Out here we’re doing real missions,” Oliver said. “We get more of a sense of purpose out here. I feel a lot more important.”

Sometimes mission success for the B-52 will require an extra crew member, and maintainers such as Oliver will be there to answer the call.