by Senior Airman David Owsianka
51st Fighter Wing Public Affairs
6/9/2014 - OSAN AIR BASE, Republic of Korea -- Imagine working on something worth approximately $60 million and being responsible for the safety of another person's life.
For the crew chiefs of the 5th Reconnaissance Squadron, that's just
another day at work as they repair and maintain U-2 Dragon Ladies to
ensure the Squadron's pilots can safely complete their reconnaissance
and surveillance missions.
The crew chiefs are split into two shifts - preparation and launch, and
recovery and inspection. Each shift begins with the prior shift leader
providing information to the incoming crew chiefs on what maintenance
has been completed and with Airmen assembling the necessary tools to for
"The preparation and launch shift begins the launch preparation
approximately five hours prior to takeoff," said Tech. Sgt. Christopher
Trusnik, 5th RS expediter. "They start by removing all of the dust
excluders, protective covers and other items on the aircraft."
The crew chiefs then turn on the power to check the lights, oxygen, fuel
tanks and balance the wings for flight. Next, they check the intakes
and tail pipes for foreign, objects and debris. Once completed, the crew
chiefs prepare the aircraft for launch and set up the necessary ground
About one-hour before launch the crew chiefs do a FOD walk on the entire
ramp to ensure it is safe for the aircraft to take off.
The crew chiefs begin launch procedures once the pilot has settled into
the cockpit. After the plane has been cleared to fly, the Airmen marshal
the pilot out and release him for his six- to 10-hour mission.
"It feels good to see the aircraft launch and know I was part of it,"
said Senior Airman Aaron Wood, 5th RS crew chief. "It's important that
we maintain the jet correctly to ensure the pilot can safely complete
In flight, the U-2 is used for both tactical and strategic
reconnaissance to deliver imagery and signals intelligence to decision
makers throughout all the phases of conflict in contingency operations.
It is equipped with sensors that capture high-resolution images from the
edge of space, which can be enlarged beyond the resolution of any other
Once the aircraft is in the air, the Airmen complete any necessary training before the recovery and inspection shift arrives.
The recovery and inspection crew's shift starts with preparation for
recovering the aircraft about 30-minutes prior to landing. The Airmen
have the tools prepositioned and have the cockpit stand set up.
"After the aircraft is marshaled to a stopping point, the pilot briefs
us on any issues with the aircraft," Trusnik said. "We tow the jet into
the hangar for maintenance afterwards."
The crew chiefs then perform a post-flight inspection at the end of the
flying day to ensure the aircraft will be structurally fit for its next
flight as well as that all fluids and lubricants are at a sufficient
"Troubleshooting maintenance problems helps me gain a better
understanding of how everything in the aircraft works together and
broadens my knowledge base of the jet," Trusnik said.
Once the maintenance work is complete, the aircraft is refueled and
Airmen service oxygen into the aircraft and prepare the jets for the
The Airmen are proud of the work they perform each day.
"I have worked on this aircraft my whole career, and I love it," Trusnik
said. "It is very satisfying to watch the aircraft take off after we
have sunk more than 12-hours into repairing it to meet each mission