Historical Shadows: The quiet dedication of the aircraft mechanic
By Senior Master Sgt. Edward Heacook, 108th AMXS
/ Published September 28, 2017
JOINT BASE MCGUIRE-DIX-LAKEHURST, N.J. --
From the birth of military aviation to the jet age, renowned pilots such as Eddie Rickenbacher, Jimmy Doolittle, Paul Tibbets, Chuck Yeager, pushed their aircraft to their operational limits in order to defend the United States against tyranny and oppression. Their names are now entrenched in the collective memory of our nation.
What many readers may not contemplate are the quiet dedication of aircraft mechanics who worked seemingly countless hours behind the scenes to ensure their aircraft could meet and maintain its operational limits.
The pilots who risked their lives on dangerous missions formed a close working cohesiveness with the mechanics who maintained their aircraft after those missions. If a rudder needed a fabric repair, a bullet riddled wing needed patching, a bomb bay needed modification or a blown tire needed replacement, the mechanic was there to ensure the pilot that the aircraft would be safe and ready for the next mission.
Aircraft have quickly evolved over the past 114 years; and along with that evolution, aircraft maintenance has kept up the pace. Beginning with humble scissors, needles and doping brushes to today's sophisticated diagnostic computers and laser assisted tools.
One aspect of aircraft maintenance that has not evolved is the steadfast dedication of the aircraft mechanics and the tacit bonds that are formed with their pilots. Whether working on Spad XIIIs on the muddy fields of Gangault Aerodrome, France in 1918 to the vast F-84 hardstands of Chaumont, France in 1961 to the blazing hot flightline of KC-135s in the Middle East in 2017, the aircraft mechanic has been there, enduring long hours and difficult demands to meet the mission.
The defense of our nation has meant many challenges over time. Our aircrews have always been determined to meet those trying times; and whether the pilot was stepping onto a fabric covered wing, or ready to ascend a ladder just before entering the annals of history, there was a quietly dedicated aircraft mechanic to offer a confident and proud salute.