161 ARW crew chiefs prevent IFE, receive Safety award

  • Published
  • By Tech. Sgt. Michael Matkin
  • 161st Air Refueling Wing Public Affairs
Ensuring the safety of airmen and aircraft is everyone's responsibility, and due to the vigilance of a group of 161st Air Refueling Wing crew chiefs, a probable inflight emergency was recently prevented.

On the day of the incident, the crew chiefs and the pilots conducted their routine pre-flight inspection and determined that the aircraft was in proper working order.

"As the aircraft was taxing I noticed, on the tail section, a large amount of hydraulic fluid coming out of the vertical stabilizer," said Skaritka. "I immediately went to the production supervisor and told him about the hydraulic leak. We agreed that we should take a closer look and call the jet back. He then called the command post and they got the aircraft called back just as the aircraft was lining up on the runway to take off. It was a pretty close call."

Staff Sgt. Nick Savasta, Tech Sgt. Bethany Skaritka and Staff Sgt. Chris Hostetler were recognized for their actions through a wing-level safety award Saturday.

The crew chiefs' swift actions and initiative in preventing a probable inflight emergency is exactly the kind of scenario the safety awards were designed to recognize, said Maj. Tami Demik, 161 ARW safety officer.

The Wing Safety awards are designed to honor and recognize people or specific organizations for contributing to the Safety program and for preventing mishaps through either sustained superior performance or a single act. It is also designed to encourage others to emulate their example. The Wing Safety office manages the Safety Awards program, reviews nominations and selects qualified individuals for the appropriate Flight, Ground or Weapons Safety awards.

The citation on the award reads:
This award is bestowed upon Tech. Sgt. Bethany Skaritka, Staff Sgt. Chris Hostetler and Staff Sgt. Nick Savasta to recognize outstanding and noteworthy actions taken to ensure the safety of 161st Air Refueling Wing crewmembers and aircraft.  On January 9th, 2014, the KC-135R tail number 59-1450 launch team went above and beyond normal operations, observing abnormal accumulation of hydraulic fluid at the base of the aircraft's horizontal stabilizer during taxi out of chocks.  The team swiftly had the aircrew notified, and the aircraft returned to parking for inspection.  The professionalism, safety mindset, and quick thinking of the launch team prevented takeoff with an unsafe condition that could well have resulted in an inflight emergency.  Their actions bring great credit to the 161st Aircraft Maintenance Squadron professionals, and reflect directly on the squadron crew chiefs' culture of safety and attention to detail.  Well done, Copperheads!

"One of the great things about this award is that our operators nominated our maintenance Airmen," said Demik. "Maintenance and Operations work closely together to ensure safety. The crew chiefs made a call that prevented a possible inflight emergency for that crew and the operators wanted to recognize that teamwork."

Demik said that working as a team to maintain a positive and proactive safety culture, and employing accurate risk management techniques, is what allows the 161 ARW to deliver 100% mission effectiveness.

"Our commanders, our safety shop and their peers are all really proud of this group for the actions they took. Their actions speak to the maintenance group as a whole - the work they do, their production level and the safe way they do it," said Demik.

"You have to keep an eye out at all times, on every portion of the aircraft," said Skaritka. "You can't sit back and think 'well, we've done this a hundred times' or 'we've already looked it over once so everything's going to be fine.'  I take safety very seriously and I try to instill that in all the Airmen that I train and talk to. It's great that they are recognizing that we do try to be as safe as possible."