62nd crew chiefs abroad

By Tech. Sgt. Timothy Chacon, 62nd Airlift Wing Public Affairs on July 1, 2016

LIBERVILLE, Gabon Africa - When a C-17 Globemaster III aircrew takes off for a mission and plans on being in a location without proper maintenance support, they bring along a 62nd Aircraft Maintenance Squadron flying crew chief to ensure the aircraft is taken care of.

FCCs are a one-person maintenance crew whose sole purpose is to ensure the air crews have a flyable aircraft despite the austere locations with limited support of the area they often land at. A special duty within the maintenance career field, FCCs can be asked a lot of.

"FCCs take care of the jet wherever the jet goes," said Senior Airman Chris Goins, 62nd AMXS flying crew chief. "FCCs are picked by the managers and are the best of the best. The (airmen) that will go out are expected to represent (maintenance) well and get the job done."

When a C-17 lands at McChord Field, typically several airmen meet it at its parking ready to help get the work done. When a C-17 lands in a place like Libreville in Gabon, Africa, the C-17 and crew are met by hot, humid air and not much else.

"Things are harder on the road," said Goins. "There is noone to turn to for help if something is wrong. It's just you and your laptop. Back home you can just call someone from that specialty."

With the exception of possibly some longtime engineers at Boeing, it would be impractical for someone to know everything about the C-17. FCCs may not know how to fix everything but, what they can do is figure out exactly what is wrong and what the aircraft needs to fly again. Knowing what parts and what people need to be sent can save days' worth of time the aircraft is grounded.

"We can't be qualified on every system, but we are familiar with them," said Staff Sgt. Matt Phillips, 62nd AMXS C-17 flying crew chief. "If it's something we can't fix or can't fly without, we can at least call back so the maintenance teams aren't coming in blind."

Some systems have backups and some issues are not cause for grounding an aircraft. It is up to the FCC to determine which is which and advise the mission commander on if the aircraft can go on.

Being the sole mechanic on a mission has a great deal of responsibility. The aircraft has to get fixed and it's up to the FCC to figure out how to get it done.

"We are held to a high standard because we are responsible for the mission," said Phillips. "Even if the aircrew leaves, we still have to stay with the aircraft and get it fixed."

Aircrew have rules in place that can limit their duty and time spent working. This is not the case for FCC.

"We still have to fix the aircraft," said Phillips. "Even if you have a twenty-hour-day of flying, it still has to get done."

Despite the difficulties of working on their own, in conditions that often work more against them than for them, FCC has its perks.

"You get to travel the world and see different things," said Goins. "At home station you just see the aircraft take off and that's it, but as an FCC you get to see the mission impact."

Phillips echoed Goins' thoughts on the benefits and has definitely experienced them in his two-and-a-half years as a FCC.

"I always wanted to travel the world and I heard all the cool stories from FCCs so I figured I'd see it for myself," said Phillips. "I still want to see all seven continents, but even if I stopped now I'd be happy with it."

Being an FCC is a unique opportunity for maintenance airmen and something Phillips encourages airmen who want to do it, should go for it.

"It's hard being away from family, but being an FCC is something to experience. You learn a lot from it. If it's something an airman wants they should work for it. Learn everything you can and ask all the questions you can; it might just help you if you get stuck somewhere."