9th MXG maintain rare U-2 Black Letter Jet at Beale

  • Published
  • By Staff Sgt. Alexandre Montes
  • 9th Reconnaissance Wing Public Affairs

A team of Airmen from the 9th Maintenance Group certified a U-2 Dragon Lady as a rare black-letter jet for flight March 17, 2019 Beale.

July 2015 was the last time the 9th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron housed a black-letter jet, marking this accomplishment a special one. The name “black-letter” originates when the dedicated crew chief initials the first letter of their last name in the “status today” block on a maintenance discrepancies and work document form. Typically, this block would have the highest symbol in the forms at the time marked in red.

“Achieving a discrepancy free aircraft known as the ‘black-letter’ jet is rare here at Beale,” Master Sgt. Justin Pierce, 9th Maintenance Squadron production superintendent said. ”The last one was a few years ago and before that I believe it was almost 10 years.

Before and after flights Airmen of the 9th MXG has worked diligently to get their jets back to prime condition for another take-off. Pierce mentioned that reaching this benchmark was not just luck.

“This aircraft was able to achieve this status due to the many hard working maintainers this maintenance group has to offer,” Pierce said. “With a little bit of sheer luck due to this aircraft not having any outstanding time compliance technical orders (TCTO’s) or delayed discrepancies which could be accomplished by a depot facility helped achieve the black-letter.”

The dedicated crew chief, Staff Sgt. Dustin Sutton provided support for the previous black letter jet team. Now as 9th AMXS crew chief, Sutton is the primary to the jet which is now also received a black letter. Regardless of the accomplishment, Sutton remained humbled as the duty is not a one man band.

“A lot of dedication and cooperation with back shops and other individuals that came out to take care of a few inspection items were real quick to get this jet to black letter,” Sutton said. “They are all hard working individuals from staff sergeants and down, we all just do our job the best of our abilities and ask questions to help each other out.”

Sutton was most proud about the mission, the jet, its capabilities, and the high altitude Intelligence Surveillance and Reconnaissance platforms, as well as where Beale is heading towards the future.  

To build and maintain a more lethal and ready Air Force, Beale has given Airmen the tools and responsibilities to achieve greatness. Pierce noted that this was a nice way to show the Airmen the U-2 program. Despite the jets age, it’s still capable of being immaculate.