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Plane Captains On The Line
by USMC Lance Cpl. Rebecca - January 24, 2012

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MARINE CORPS AIR STATION MIRIMAR, Calif. (1/18/2012) -- With their hands covered in grease and their uniform reeking of jet fuel, the hard workers on the flight line aboard Marine Corps Air Station Miramar spend all day ensuring the FA-18 is ready for flight.

Petty Officer 3rd Class Broderick Sizemore, a plane captain with Marine Fighter Attack Training Squadron 101 and a Laketon, Ind., native, signals to the pilot to check the F/A-18C functions aboard Marine Corps Air Station Miramar, Calif., Jan. 17, 2012. Plane captains use hand-and-arm signals during their final inspection to communicate with the pilot. Photo by USMC Lance Cpl. Rebecca
Petty Officer 3rd Class Broderick Sizemore, a plane captain with Marine Fighter Attack Training Squadron 101 and a Laketon, Ind., native, signals to the pilot to check the F/A-18C functions aboard Marine Corps Air Station Miramar, Calif., Jan. 17, 2012. Plane captains use hand-and-arm signals during their final inspection to communicate with the pilot. Photo by USMC Lance Cpl. Rebecca

In most jobs in the Marine Corps, the work day does not end until the job is done. For powerline plane captains with Marine Fighter Attack Training Squadron 101, it is no different.

Powerline plane captains typically work 10 to 12 hour shifts, bracing either brisk winds or the sun's heat to inspect the aircraft. Inspections ensure there are no leaks and nothing is loose nor missing from the aircraft and it is ready for flight.

“The pilots are putting their lives in our hands,” said Petty Officer 3rd Class Broderick Sizemore, a plane captain with VMFAT-101 and a Laketon, Ind., native. “When we inspect these aircraft, we have to make sure nothing is missing and everything is good to go for these pilots.”

In order to ensure this, plane captains constantly conduct inspections. The plane captains inspect before the pilot comes out, while the pilot is sitting in the aircraft and post flight once the aircraft returns.

While each specific maintenance shop masters their own expertise, powerline plane captains are jacks of all trades. Plane captains are responsible for maintaining the entire aircraft and knowing all its components.

With safety as one of the biggest concerns for plane captains, providing clear communication with the pilot is vital, and is accomplished through hand-and-arm signals. Plane captains must memorize more than 100 hand-and-arm signals to communicate with the pilot.

Because powerline plane captains have a thorough job and the lives of the pilot's depend on them, becoming a plane captain is a lengthy process. After completing military occupational specialty school, training is continuous.

“We have a month-long MOS school and then come here for on-the-job training,” said Lance Cpl. Justin Gardner, a trainee plane captain with VMFAT-101 and a Salem, Utah, native. “No one can teach this entire job without having hands-on experience.”

There are several components that go into the functionality of the F/A-18. Plane captains are the last people to look over an aircraft before it departs. At least three plane captains go over the aircraft to guarantee nothing was overlooked.

Powerlines may be a dirty job, but plane captains do not mind the grime if it means a safe flight for the pilots.

More photos available below

By USMC Lance Cpl. Rebecca
Marine Corps Air Station Miramar
Provided through DVIDS
Copyright 2012

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