PATRICK AIR FORCE BASE, Florida --
As an Air Force aviation mechanic on HH-60G Pave Hawk helicopters in the 920th Rescue Wing, I would like to take time out May 24 to honor all of the Air Force's men and women who have worked behind the scenes making and keeping aviation possible, the unsung heroes charged with keeping our aircraft flying.
Aviation Maintenance Technician Day is a day that recognizes the efforts of aviation maintenance professionals, as well as the father of aircraft maintenance, Charles Taylor.
People fly for many reasons, to see loved ones, to go to combat, to see the world, etc., but whatever the reason; it has become so commonplace that one hardly thinks about the long work hours that ensure airworthiness.
As a member of the world's greatest air and space force, the U.S. Air Force, I am reminded of Orville and Wilbur Wright who made this all possible. But if you were asked, who turned the wrench for the brothers to help launch man's first flight December 17, 1903, would you know if I didn't already mention his name?
Charles Taylor started out as a bicycle mechanic turned flight mechanic. He fabricated, repaired and designed the first aircraft engine. Charles was the perfect, and stereotypical, example of the aircraft mechanic-a person interested in making a machine fly--safely and efficiently. He needed no glory nor recognition. He stayed in the shadow of the aircraft hangar, coming out occasionally to look up and hear the roar of his well-oiled machines fly by.
My own story started somewhat like Mr. Taylor's. I was an aviation buff from day one. I loved airplanes--got it from my father who worked on P-3 Orion's in the Navy. Then, when I graduated high school, I followed my father's footsteps and joined the Navy as a jet engine mechanic. I served for 5 yrs before getting out and moving on with my civilian career.
I crossed into the blue and joined the Air Force Reserve as a part-time maintenance Reserve Citizen Airman, and continued to work around airplanes in my civilian career, whether it was commercial or government contract work. In 2002 I decided to get my Airframe and Power plant License to be an official licensed mechanic. I was extremely happy for accomplishing this feat, and was working at a small fixed base in Greenville, S.C.
In August 2002, we did a small air show with the Commemorative Air Force. They brought in "FIFE" the B-29 and "diamond Lil" a B-24G aircraft. We also hosted aircraft from World War II, a P-47 and P-51, that were flown to recognize the many Airmen that lost their lives in that war. When the show was over and the aircraft were leaving, the "FIFE" had an engine problem. We all pitched in to get her fixed, me-the new-guy, a retired airline mechanic, and the flight engineer, all worked to get this great piece of history back in the air. That day many people stopped by to see her, including a few WWII veterans who stopped by to remember their glory days. They were appreciative that the younger generation, us mechanics, were getting involved in the history of keeping their generation flying. That day I knew I chose the right career.
As mechanics, we're not in it for the glory, but the desire to launch those aircraft and see them take flight, gets in us. In the 920th RQW, everytime we launch on a life-saving rescue mission, we know that our work in getting the aircraft off the ground, was vital.
Many people can name pilot's who've made famous firsts throughout history: Charles Lindbergh, John Glenn, Chuck Yeager, just to name a few. But, how many people can name the mechanic or crew chief that took care of their aircraft with great pride, putting in long hours necessary to ensure these historical feats could be accomplished.
On May 24, let's take time to remember the unsung heroes who made the ultimate sacrifice to the flying public and the military.
My fellow mechanics and I support our rescue mission here at the 920th RQW with our motto....These thing we do, that other may live. These words can be carried over into maintenance to ensure that our pilots and Guardian Angel Airmen have working aircraft to transport them to mission completion, and save a life. With honor, we maintain the 920th's fleet of combat search and rescue aircraft, nine HH-G Pave Hawk helicopters, and six HC-130P/N King tanker aircraft.
Charles Taylor started this over 110 years ago in a small bicycle shop with two brothers who dared to dream, let's keep the dream alive.
(TSgt. McGraw is an HH-60 Propulsion Craftsmen with the 920th Rescue Wing Aircraft Maintenance Squadron who works on HH-60G Pave Hawk helicopters at Patrick Air Force Base, Florida. Some information for this article was contributed by Mr. Ken MacTiernan, former U.S. Air Force Airman and current director of Aviation Maintenance Technician Association)