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Maintenance crew earns perfect black letter flight

From left, Staff Sgt. David Loffeld and Senior Airmen Brian Schmidt, Anthony Liss and Kenneth Jarvis have earned their induction into the black letter flight club with the Cobra Ball 61-2663. A black letter flight is one with zero discrepancies on required forms before take-off. (U.S. Air Force Photo By/Tech Sgt. Jonathan Jenkins)

From left, Staff Sgt. David Loffeld and Senior Airmen Brian Schmidt, Anthony Liss and Kenneth Jarvis have earned their induction into the black letter flight club with the Cobra Ball 61-2663. A black letter flight is one with zero discrepancies on required forms before take-off. (U.S. Air Force Photo By/Tech Sgt. Jonathan Jenkins)

OFFUTT AIR FORCE BASE, Neb. -- Milestones are very important events for a project or in a person's life. The same can be said for aircraft. Very few have reached the 50,000 flying hour milestone. Even fewer have reached the black letter flight milestone.

A black letter flight by definition is a flight with "zero discrepancies" on required forms processed before take-off. Prior to flight, the production superintendent releases the forms acknowledging the discrepancies to release aircraft for flight signifying "aircraft airworthy." On a black letter, there are no discrepancies to release. Having no discrepancies on a 47-year-old aircraft is no easy task. In fact, most crew chiefs go their entire careers without the opportunity of saying their aircraft flew on a black letter initial.

On April 22, Cobra Ball aircraft 61-2663, crewed by Staff Sgt. David Loffeld and Senior Airmen Brian Schmidt, Kenneth Jarvis and Anthony Liss earned their induction into the black letter initial flight club.

"In 30 years, I have only seen about five aircraft reach this status," said Col. Gary Elliott, 55th Maintenance Group commander as he coined the crew chiefs. "A black letter initial for many means nothing, but to the dedicated crew chiefs it means the world. It shows pride and ownership in their aircraft and epitomizes the core values we uphold daily."

It takes more than dedicated crew chiefs to accomplish this milestone. It takes an entire team of maintenance professionals to make this happen.

"(I) was impressed with the professionalism and system knowledge demonstrated by the maintenance team," said Capt. Amit Routh, aircraft commander for the black letter flight. "The aircraft was both clean and in perfect working condition. This record is a credit to the hard work and dedication of the maintenance team."

Discrepancies requiring ordered parts to complete a job prevent an aircraft from flying with the black letter initial. Parts can take days or months to deliver. Then, there are discrepancies that require repair at the depot level. A depot is where an aircraft goes for major maintenance every four years. These write-ups stay on the delayed discrepancy section of the forms until the aircraft returns to depot. These will prevent the aircraft from ever making the black letter status.