MINOT AIR FORCE BASE, N.D. - He heads to his locker to get his
gear sorted and make sure he has everything ready to begin work in
the frigid weather. It's 6:30 a.m., 27 degrees below zero and the
sky remains dark.
On top of his multiple layers he wears
thick coveralls. His heavy duty boots allow him to trudge through
ice and snow while his face is guarded by a face shield and
shatter-proof snow goggles.
U.S. Air Force Senior Airman Taylor Lancaster, 5th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron aircraft crew chief, guides a truck to a trailer on Minot Air Force Base, N.D., Jan. 9, 2015. The truck was hitched to a trailer that holds all of the tools the Airmen need for the jet to transport to other jets as needed. (U.S. Air Force photo
by Airman 1st Class Sahara L. Fales)
At roll call, the maintenance team gathers together where
they are told what jets need to be repaired; then everyone
gets to work.
Though they all work together to meet
the needs of the mission, each crew chief is assigned a
specific jet they are responsible for maintaining.
After being at Minot for over three years, Senior Airman
Taylor Lancaster, 5th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron aircraft
crew chief, has worked on his jet enough to know exactly
what it'll need once it lands.
"Every jet is
different, especially in the cold," Lancaster said. "I love
working on my jet because when it lands, I already know what
needs to be serviced."
The maintenance team hops on
the truck headed to the tool crib. They load up with all of
the equipment they'll need for the day and head out to their
Around 8:30 a.m. the sun begins to
rise, allowing the flight line to defrost ever so slightly,
as the cold weather and ice lingers.
winter, what would normally be a 10 minute job takes
anywhere from 30 minutes to an hour," Lancaster said.
Some of the harsh winter days Minot has can cause things
on the jets to break easier meaning more work for
With temperatures as low as 40
degrees below zero and blizzard like conditions, getting
simple things done can become a tedious task, Lancaster
"Training new Airmen can be a bit of a task
when winter time rolls around," Lancaster said. "Since it's
so cold, we can only spend so long out there before we have
to go back inside and warm up."
For the past two
years Lancaster worked mid-shift, which began at 11 p.m. and
ended at 7 a.m.
"It wasn't uncommon for me to go the
whole work week without seeing the sun," Lancaster said.
"Now a days, it's still dark when I get to work, but at
least I get to see the sunrise and the sunset."
a great feeling to know that if I spent all night working on
my jet in the cold, when the aircrew shows up they will have
a good jet," he added.
Because temperatures are known
to potentially reach dangerous lows, maintenance members
implement the buddy system to ensure safety while getting
the mission done.
Once the weather is less than 45
degrees below zero, maintenance on certain sections of the
flight line shuts down temporarily. However, because
temperatures read differently across the flight line, this
means the maintenance team's duty is to now provide
maintenance for a different aircraft.
job can be tough at times, Lancaster tries to remind newer
Airmen the mission is important.
"Sometimes it's hard
to see the big picture when we're out there working in these
kinds of temperatures, but we have to remember what we're
doing is meaningful," he added.
is working on getting flight certified, which will provide
him the opportunity to fly with the aircrew and allow him to
work on his jet as soon as it lands in various locations.
"I wanted to do this because it gets me more involved,"
Lancaster said. "It's a great feeling to be able to get up
in the jet that I worked on and take off with the aircrew."
With three years under his belt, Lancaster hasn't made
any final decisions on whether he's going to re-enlist, but
the future seems to be getting brighter.
"It was hard
for me to really look ahead when I first got here,"
Lancaster said. "Now that I'm comfortable, confident and
getting more responsibilities handed down to me, it's making
me realize that I know what I'm doing and no matter what I
know I can do it."
By U.S. Air Force Senior Airman Sahara Fales
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