Photo Information

Cpl. Michael P. Hinds, from Queens, N.Y., works on an FA-18 Hornet Sept. 29 during Forager Fury III on Andersen Air Force Base. He is doing routine maintenance to ensure the safety of the pilot. Hinds is an airframes mechanic with Marine All Weather Fighter Attack Squadron 242, Marine Aircraft Group 12, 1st Marine Aircraft Wing, III Marine Expeditionary Force. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Tyler Ngiraswei/ Released)

Photo by Lance Cpl. Tyler Ngiraswei

Marine Corps’ pit crew: aircraft maintenance

1 Oct 2014 | Lance Cpl. Tyler Ngiraswei The Official United States Marine Corps Public Website

Marine Corps aircraft maintenance crews are Marine pilots’ NASCAR pit crews of the sky.
Aircraft maintenance Marines provide a major supporting role during Exercise Forager Fury III on Guam by inspecting, repairing and refueling aircraft.

Forager Fury III is an overarching Marine Corps led training exercise involving more than 1300 participants that began Sept. 24 and is scheduled to conclude Oct. 6. FF III emphasizes tactical aviation and aviation ground support to further develop a distributed, expeditionary combat capability within the Marianas Island range complex. 

Without the maintenance Marines, the exercise wouldn’t be possible, according to Capt. Nils P. Alpers, a pilot with Marine All Weather Fighter Attack Squadron 533 currently assigned to Marine Air Group 12, 1st Marine Aircraft Wing, III Marine Expeditionary Force under the unit deployment program. 

“We literally cannot fly without the maintenance Marines,” said Alpers, from Seattle, Washington. “Without the maintainers the aircraft would not get fixed, fueled and would not be able to taxi, let alone take off.”

To ensure the safety of the pilots, the maintenance Marines check for any damage or malfunctions before and after a flight, according to Lance Cpl. Joseph M. Mansfield, from Hollister, Missouri, and a fixed wing aircraft mechanic with Marine All Weather Fighter Attack Squadron 242, MAG-12, 1st MAW, III MEF.

After an FA-18 Hornet lands and makes its way to the taxiway, it is eventually met by an aircraft maintenance Marine known as a plane captain. The plane captain stands in front of the FA-18’s parking space and guides the pilot toward it with hand and arm signals. Once parked, the plane captain and pilot run through procedures before turning the engine off to ensure there are no malfunctions.

Every flight begins and ends with aircraft maintenance Marines. Although they may seemingly work behind the scenes, many lives depend on their dedication to and proficiency of their craft.

“The whole flight doesn’t start or end with the pilot taking off or landing,” said Mansfield. “The flight begins and ends when a Marine inspects the aircraft before it takes off and after it lands.”