We've seen the A-10 Thunderbolt transformed into a monster truck, but nothing matches the destructive beauty of the real thing. Seen here over Afghanistan from the bay of a KC-135 Stratotanker. (Photo Air Force/Master Sgt. William Greer)
Gather 'round children, and I'll tell you the tail of Dukie's 3 years as an A-10 crew chief.
It all started in October of 2000, a young man fresh out of Basic training, I had signed up to be an aircraft mechanic. I spent my senior year of high school doing a work study program at Selfridge ANGB just north of Detroit. My work study just happened to land me with the 127th Fighter Wing helping with F-16 maintenance. Pretty sweet gig for a 17 year old plane nut. Anyway, I was so hoping to get assigned to the F-16. I had a little experience, knew about them first hand, and thought they were sexy. Until I walked into the hanger for the first time at Sheppard AFB and saw the Hawg.
I was assigned to the 354th Fighter Squadron at Davis-Monthan AFB in Tucson and became the Assistant Dedicated Crew Chief of A-10A 80-204. After I became a journeyman, I was moved to another aircraft (80-236) and was slated to become it’s Dedicated Crew Chief (think head crew chief in NASCAR) after my deployment to Afghanistan in 2002. Well, the fates thought otherwise and they used 236 for the demonstration team. I was re-assigned to a jet I happened to work on while in Afghanistan, OA-10A 80-278. The 629th A-10 to roll out of Fairchild/Republic’s factory. From 2002 until 2004, I "owned" 278. I knew that aircraft inside and out. There were 8 screws that came loose after a flight on the leading edge of the right wing, the #1 engine (left side if you’re in the cockpit), drained hydraulic fluid and fuel over the weekend, and she didn’t like cold weather.
During our deployment back to Afghanistan in 2003/2004, it got really cold. Being an Arizona girl, she wasn’t happy. After a couple months, she was placed as the CSAR/CAS Alert Spare because she flew a lot initially and was close to a major inspection. Because of the cold, her APU (small jet engine in the fuselage) didn’t want to start correctly and I would have to coax it in the mornings. One morning while the pilots prepped the alert jets, I went out and got 278 running and closed the canopy. It was very cold that morning, and after I closed the canopy, I turned on the heater. It was so nice in there. The next thing I know, someone is knocking on the canopy. Turns out, I passed out in the cockpit for almost an hour with the APU running. Whoops!
I can’t remember for sure, but I think she has 500-1000lbs of bombs dropped, and a few hundred rounds fired in combat. She also has (as of June 18th) over 12,000 flight hours which should make her one of longest flying A-10’s in the inventory. She’s currently on the A-10 West Demonstration team along with her sister (80-279) and 80-238. I got to see her again on June 18th at the Olympia, WA airshow.
I miss it sometimes, the smell of the JP-8, the camaraderie of the other maintainers and pilots, and watching that lumbering beast slowly make her way into the sky knowing I had busted my ass to make sure she brought back that pilot and rained hell upon the bad guys.
TL;DR I used to work on a bad ass plane and I miss it sometimes. Picture related: that's me and my daughter in front of 278 at the Olympic Airshow.