Heroes of the Flightline

by Phil Rowe
Every organization, including the military, has its share of unsung heroes. You know the kind. They're the folks who quietly and unceremoniously keep things running smoothly, get the job done and make others look better than they are.

I refer here to the flight line mechanics and crew chiefs who maintain, service and support operations. Whether they work for an airline or a military squadron of fighters or bombers, these people are the essential element to sustained airborne operations.

In the blazing sun of a desert airfield or the blustery snows and freezing cold of an Alaskan flightline, these unsung heroes deserve our praise and thanks.

I remember well the days spent in Strategic Air Command, the tensions and difficulties of launching training sorties on time under conditions to try the mettle of even the most dedicated. Hours before even routine flights, long before aircrews showed up to load their gear and launch the day's training flight, the maintenance folks were on the job.

They were still there after the planes landed, ready to turn the birds around for the next mission. That often meant fixing broken equipment or systems, adding greatly to the tasks of refueling, cleaning bugs and debris from windshields and other routine chores. And all the while doing their jobs efficiently under the barking commands and whining entreatments of supervisors and inspectors.

Things were worst during special exercises or inspections, when the careers and reputations of the brass were on the line. That's when demands for extra performance by maintenance people became nearly intolerable. In order to meet required schedules and numbers of sorties to be launched on time, the maintenance folks worked extra hours under the constant pressure of their supervisors. That's usually when the weather was at its worst too.

Yet when the exercise was over and the brass was patting themselves on their backs for a job well done, all too often the folks who toiled on the flight line were not remembered. Rarely did they enjoy the plaudits and rewards for making everything go smoothly. No, it was usually some colonel or other big wig who garnered the praise and posted another career-advancing notation on their records.

The flightline mechanics, the fellows in the shops and supply rooms who kept it all going properly deserve recognition and appreciation.

Thanks again, guys and gals.

Some of us do remember and appreciate your hard work and dedication.