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The 415th AMU celebrates first ‘Black Letter’ aircraft

An Airmen salutes.

U.S. Air Force Airman 1st Class Michael Z. Pittman, 58th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron aerospace propulsion apprentice, renders a salute on Kirtland Air Force Base, New Mexico, June 9, 2020. To celebrate aircraft 5759, an MC-130J Commando II, reaching ‘Black Letter’ status, the crew participated in a zero defect flight. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Ireland Summers)

Airmen perform a pre-flight inspection.

Airmen assigned to the 58th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron perform a pre-flight inspection of an MC-130J Commando II on Kirtland Air Force Base, New Mexico, June 9, 2020. The aircraft is Kirtland’s first ‘Black Letter’ aircraft, meaning it has zero maintenance discrepancies. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Ireland Summers)

Signing of a 'Black Letter' aircraft.

U.S. Air Force Master Sgt. Dennis S. Moore, 415th Aircraft Maintenance Unit production superintendent, signs a ‘Black Letter’ on Kirtland Air Force Base, New Mexico, June 9, 2020. Aircraft 5759, an MC-130J, was signed-off with zero maintenance discrepancies, marking Kirtland’s first ‘Black Letter’ aircraft. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Ireland Summers)

Airmen marshall an aircraft.

U.S. Air Force Senior Airman Alexander Stillinger, left, 58th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron avionics specialist, marshalls a ‘Black Letter’ aircraft with his team standing at attention on Kirtland Air Force Base, New Mexico, June 9, 2020. To celebrate aircraft 5759, an MC-130J Commando II, reaching ‘Black Letter’ status, the crew participated in a zero defect flight. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Ireland Summers)

Airmen board an aircraft.

Airmen assigned to the 58th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron board an MC-130J Commando II for a zero defect flight on Kirtland Air Force Base, New Mexico, June 9, 2020. The aircraft is Kirtland’s first ‘Black Letter’ aircraft, meaning it has zero maintenance discrepancies. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Ireland Summers)

An Airman performs a pre-flight inspection.

U.S. Air Force Senior Airman Alexander Stillinger, 58th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron avionics specialist, performs a pre-flight inspection on Kirtland Air Force Base, New Mexico, June 9, 2020. Stillinger is the dedicated crew chief for aircraft 5759, which received a ‘Black Letter’ for having zero maintenance discrepancies. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Ireland Summers)

Airmen stand on an aircraft.

U.S. Air Force Senior Airman Alexander Stillinger, left, 58th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron avionics specialist, and U.S. Air Force Airman 1st Class Michael Z. Pittman, right, 58th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron aerospace propulsion apprentice, stand on an MC-130J Commando II on Kirtland Air Force Base, New Mexico, June 9, 2020. Stillinger and Pittman are both on the aircraft’s dedicated crew and played key roles in bringing the aircraft to ‘Black Letter’ status. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Ireland Summers)

KIRTLAND AIR FORCE BASE, NM. --

The 415th Aircraft Maintenance Unit launched its first ‘Black Letter’ aircraft June 9, 2020, on Kirtland Air Force Base, New Mexico, making maintenance history. 

Aircraft 5759, an MC-130J Commando II, nicknamed War Pig, was signed-off with zero discrepancies or scheduled delayed modifications due, making it a ‘Black Letter’ aircraft. Essentially, a perfect aircraft.

“Over the last several months, our C-130 maintenance team has overcome tremendous odds and obstacles, balancing typical arduous aircraft maintenance with the global COVID-19 pandemic,” said U.S. Air Force Capt. Ryan S. Deline, 415th AMU officer in charge. “The team rigorously combated 858 aircraft maintenance discrepancies, of which there were 44 delayed (deferred) maintenance discrepancies that were awaiting extended downtime. The crew also worked with the aircraft production team to schedule 23 time compliance technical order inspections and seven safety time compliance technical order inspections since December of 2019.”

According to Deline, the aircraft’s dedicated crew chief (DCC) and three assistant dedicated crew chiefs (ADCC) were key players in making this happen. 

U.S. Air Force Senior Airman Alexander Stillinger, 58th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron avionics specialist and DCC for aircraft 5759, has worked on this aircraft since the start of his career. 

“I've worked on this plane since I was [stationed] at Royal Air Force Base Mildenhall in 2015,” said Stillinger. “I do it more for the love of the plane, since I’ve known it and worked on it for five years. It has a personal spot in my heart and that is why I do what I do.”

Stillinger said it is an incredible achievement to have a ‘Black Letter’ aircraft. This achievement is not just a reflection of him and his team, but a reflection of the 415th AMU.

In honor of this, the crew marshalled the aircraft out for its zero-defect flight and rendered the customary salute. The crew then joined the flight for take-off. 

“Having an aircraft ‘Black Letter’ with zero discrepancies is often a once-in-a-career moment for many Airmen, and I am honored and elated to see this come to fruition,” said Deline. “Despite turbulent times, insurmountable odds, a mountain of jobs to overcome all while meeting the demands of the flying schedule, Stillinger and the rest of the maintenance team made the almost impossible, possible.”

The 415th AMU leadership acknowledged the historical achievement.

“The 415th AMU works tirelessly to generate aircraft for us to perform our mission and we definitely ask a lot of them each week,” said U.S. Air Force Lt. Col. Amy L. McQuitty, 415th Special Operations Squadron commander.  “To achieve this milestone is such an amazing accomplishment and a testament to how hard they work to keep these airplanes flying.”