MARINE CORPS AIR STATION MIRAMAR, Calif. – As MV-22B Ospreys land with rotors tilted upward, pilots cannot see the rear, sides or beneath the aircraft. Crew chiefs watch the surroundings of the Osprey and alert the pilots by looking out of side and rear hatches.
Crew chiefs control anything that happens outside of the cockpit, such as maintenance of the aircraft, cargo storage and ensuring the safety of passengers.
Pilots cannot reach components like circuit breakers and cannot make in-flight repairs if necessary without the crew chiefs, explained Maj. Matt Baldwin, a pilot with Marine Medium Tiltrotor Squadron 163 “Ridge Runners,” 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing, and a Bellevue, Wash., native.
“Flying without crew chiefs is like driving a car with no windows,” said Baldwin. “However, with them, it’s like driving with a mechanic in your back seat.”
Crew chiefs load the aircraft with cargo and also fire the weapons systems. They are responsible for balancing the load and securing it as well as ensuring passengers know the safety procedures and how to properly use the seat belts.
Flights differ day-to-day, creating a new adventure when they come into work, explained Sgt. Jason L. Hotze, a crew chief with VMM-163 and a Fort Worth, Texas, native.
“Crew chiefs have a lot of responsibility from the beginning.” said Hotze. “The availability for growth is huge.”
They are able to earn qualifications on maintenance and on flight safety. Crew chiefs can earn qualifications such as weapons tactics instructor and collateral duty inspector.
Crew chiefs benefit by learning how to improve flights and transferring those skills into learning about the mechanics of the aircraft, explained Hotze.
Crew chiefs need to know everything from nomenclature of the aircraft, to how to use weapon systems.
“The hardest part of my job is having to know everything,” said Hotze. “I have the highest qualifications I can have, which means I have to know the ins and outs of [many manuals]. I need to remember the most important things and be able to locate what I don’t know.”
In other military branches there are many military occupational specialties that involve flying on aircraft such as gunners, load masters and maintainers that each specialize in a specific aspect of flying. Osprey crew chiefs are qualified to do anything necessary to accomplish the mission at hand, added Hotze.
Without crew chiefs, Ospreys and other aircraft would be less safe for pilots, passengers and personnel on the ground.