MINOT AIR FORCE BASE Imagine joining the Air Force with a job to maintain the B-52H Stratofortress and its weapon system. Normally, this type of job would not allow for flying the aircraft except for those maintainers who are part of the 5th Bomb Wing at Minot Air Force Base.
"B-52 pilots and co-pilots are now teaming up with maintainers at the B-52 weapon system trainer (flight simulator)" said Master Sgt. Shaun Mendelsohn, 23rd Aircraft Maintenance Unit crew chiefs section chief. "There is no formal training involved it is considered an incentive for our top performers in the maintenance section. These airmen get the opportunity to fly the aircraft they work on every day."
Mendelsohn said the program launched on Aug. 24. Ten airmen went through the simulator and practiced approaches and landings at Minot, as well as flying over the Las Vegas strip at night.
"We couldn't do this without the help of a knowledgeable pilot to guide us through the takeoff, landing and flight," said Mendelsohn. "They also communicate with the WST operator during the simulation to change aircraft conditions and locations as needed. It's great because it gives our maintainers a different perspective and helps them realize how critical some of the systems that they work on are to the flight crew."
Mendelsohn said it also gives aircrew members a chance to interact with the maintainers in an environment much different than would normally be encountered; there's no rush to make a flight and no pressure to fix an issue.
"It's one-on-one with the pilot coaching the maintainer through the flight," the sergeant continued. "This is one way we are breaking down barriers that exist between the operations and maintenance communities. It gets us talking and working together we can take those positive experiences and attitudes and translate them to the flight line."
Mendelsohn said maintainers' communicate with the operators mainly through the aircraft documents; fixing discrepancies without meeting face-to-face.
"This (program)is just one way to give them a chance to put faces to names and provide an opportunity to work together in an environment that is conducive to fostering teamwork and mutual respect," said Mendelsohn. "Anything we can do that helps us function better as one team makes us a stronger, more cohesive force."