Offutt AFB Rivet Joint maintainers achieve rare Black-Letter status

  • Published
  • By 55th Wing Public Affairs

Aircraft maintainers from the 55th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron achieved a Black-Letters status on RC-135V/W Rivet Joint tail number 4841 March 3, 2023.

Black-Letter status is a maintenance term indicating there were no flyable or non-flyable discrepancies annotated in red ink following an inspection, with only the inspector’s last name and production superintendent’s signature listed in black.

“This is a testament to the hard work of our depot maintenance counterparts at the 645th Aeronautical Systems Squadron and our team of maintainers that helped inspect and receive the aircraft,” said Senior Master Sgt. Justin Lange 55th AMXS lead production superintendent. “Thousands of hours of hard work and dedication are devoted at depot, home station and around the globe to keep these old planes flying.”

Black-Letter status aircraft are incredibly uncommon across the Air Force inventory.

“I’ve served 29 years as an aircraft maintenance officer, and this is only my second Black-Letter experience,” said Col. Kyle Clement, 55th Maintenance Group commander.

“I have only seen two in my almost 20-year career,” Lange said, “and I have worked on the oldest aircraft we have.”

The 55th Wing’s fleet of 135 aircraft, which were all built in the early 1960s, average around 20 delayed discrepancies each.

Aircraft discrepancies come in all variations with some being fixed very quickly with others requiring parts or more in-depth maintenance preventing an aircraft from flying. Other discrepancies remain on the jet until it returns to depot where major aircraft maintenance takes place every four years.

“The ability to tackle these issues and produce a jet clean of any maintenance issues speaks to the quality of work being done at the depot and here at Offutt,” Lange said.

The 55th AMXS maintainers on 4841 who captured the coveted Black-Letter status were Senior Airman Gannon Popham, Senior Airman Jack Sparks, Airman Andrew Fox-Sellers and Airman Spencer Tipold.

“The selfless dedication each maintainer puts into this squadron personifies itself with an aircraft as perfectly maintained as 4841,” Popham said.

“This squadron puts in a lot of work every day to ensure this country has some of the best warfighters in the entire world,” Sparks said.

“I’m proud of being able to say I was a part of something so rare in the Air Force,” Fox-Sellers said.

“It is a good thing to know our hard work is finally paying off and knowing the hours we put in ensured the jet was perfect to fly,” Tipold said.

With each aircraft valued at well over $250 million, the Black-Letter status is just one of example of how serious the 55th AMXS maintainers take their jobs daily.

“The importance of our mission to the Department of Defense and the nation cannot be overstated and the efforts of these maintainers make it happen,” Lange said. “These young Airmen guarantee that the sun will never set on our aging fleet.”