MARINE CORPS AIR STATION MIRAMAR, Calif. --
It is no easy task to maneuver an aircraft the size of a school bus and up to three times heavier. Crew chiefs watch over the mechanical workings of the aircraft and the skies for aerial traffic while pilots take care of the flying.
Lance Cpl. Joshua Payne, crew chief with Marine Medium Tiltrotor Squadron 161 (VMM-161) “Greyhawks” and a Houston native, took part in his first tactical-formation training flight as crew chief, Nov. 26.
Crew chiefs come from all walks of life and have other jobs aside from being pilots’ “eyes and ears” in flight. The path to becoming a crew chief is a long one with training flights, tests and supervision from senior crew members.
“This is my initial [tactical formation flight]. I’ve been on similar ones before, but this one counts for the code I need to complete my courses,” said Payne. “Once I get that code, or qualification, that means I no longer need supervision with that type of flight. A lot of people might not think of it as a big deal, but it really is.”
While Payne still has dozens of qualifications left to complete, his seniors noticed his determination to complete his training before a deployment next year and have faith in his abilities.
“I think he did very well [on the flight today],” said Staff Sgt. Saul Moreno, crew chief with the “Greyhawks” and a Fort Worth, Texas, native. “He kept the pilots honest on their heading, speed and altitude, and he made good calls the entire flight. He always kept the pilots informed of where the second aircraft was, and if he lost it he communicated it to me and to the pilots so we could get visuals and adjust appropriately. He did a good job today.”
One of the reasons Payne works so hard for these qualifications is for the escape each flight allows him.
“I have two jobs right now,” said Payne. “I’m a mechanic and now a crew chief. So, when I have a stressful week working on aircraft, I can look at the flight schedule and say ‘Oh, I’m flying tomorrow,’ and it helps give me something to look forward to. [Flying] gets me away from the work place a little bit and allows me to see, and do, all kinds of cool stuff. That’s probably the best part of this whole situation for me personally.”