KIRTLAND AIR FORCE BASE, N.M. --
The mission of the 71st Aircraft Maintenance Unit is to provide mission ready CV-22 Ospreys for the 71st Special Operations Squadron.
Over the last fiscal year, the maintainers did just that. Hitting the unit’s goal of 1,500 flying hours which hasn’t happened in two years.
“[We finished] out this fiscal year with 1,501.5 flying hours,” said U.S. Air Force Capt. Jessica Cocca, 71st AMU officer in charge. “That is only the second time in the past five fiscal years that we have made 1,500 [flying hours].”
The goal being met didn’t come without several challenges the AMU had to deal with.
“It comes with such pride in my maintainers because we have overcome so much in this AMU in this last year,” said Cocca.
One of the main challenges last year was having several aircraft down for extensive maintenance. The AMU also had to send four aircraft out to be painted which limited the number of aircraft available for flying, according to Cocca.
Not only were aircraft breaking down for major repairs but the AMU lost several seven and five-level trained Airmen to permanent change of station moves, while mainly getting brand new Airmen from technical training school in return.
“Come this summer time, we lost a great number of our five and seven-level [Airmen]. So our experience dwindled in the AMU,” said Cocca. “We lost over 36 Airmen from this AMU which was extremely detrimental for us.”
But with all the challenges that faced the 71st AMU, the Airmen made the mission happen and kept producing mission ready aircraft to be flown.
“With that [being said], our NCO’s and seven, five and three-levels that were remaining, picked up that ball and ran with it,” said Cocca. “Because of my Airmen and all of our supporting squadrons that support the CV’s, we were able to hit the 1,500 goal.”
One of the reasons the unit was able to keep the aircraft ready to fly through all the challenges faced is the tight cohesion in the unit and the willingness to help out wherever was needed to get the mission done, according to U.S. Air Force Senior Airman Isaac Chilcote, 71st AMU Electrical Environmental Systems specialist.
“I think we keep pretty upbeat,” said Chilcote. “The one benefit of how hard it is to work on the CV-22 is that we all help each other… I think that keeps the morale up.”
In the year of multiple challenges facing the unit the AMU had several highlights throughout the year culminating in hitting the 1,500 flight hour goal.
“August was huge for us, we made 158.9 hours,” said Cocca. “Which is the best we have done in a given month in the past two years.”
That wasn’t the only success in the year.
In March and May the unit hit their aircraft availability rate for the first time in 13 months, according to Cocca.
“This rate measures the readiness of the fleet for operational use,” said Cocca.
Though looking back at the success over the last year is nice, nothing changes for the Airmen in the 71st AMU. They’ll continue working on the flight line, fixing broken Ospreys and keeping them flight ready ensuring student aircrew training continues for the 71st SOS.