From crash to recovery: Pilot, maintainers show resilience

  • Published
  • By Airman 1st Class Briana Beavers
  • 23rd Wing Public Affairs

A pilot climbs into the cockpit of an aircraft, which looked much different than it did on the day a catastrophic gun malfunction stopped the landing gear from deploying and ripped off the canopy mid-flight.

On a basic surface attack in 2020 Capt. Bye, 75th Fighter Squadron chief of standardization and evaluation, safely landed A-10C Thunderbolt II tail-995 after an in-flight emergency.

Tail number 995 was recently restored, and who better to fly the aircraft than Capt Bye. On Nov. 3, 2021, Bye departed on a sortie in that same A-10C. 

As she approached her departure in the aircraft, she showed complete resilience.

“I’m excited,” Bye said. “My first flight back was a step and this will be another. I think it will help build my continued confidence in learning how to fly the A-10 and mastery of it. If nothing else, I will know that this is not going to keep me from flying and continuing to pursue my passion.”

Although the events surrounding the flight can be mentally challenging, Bye said she remembers the advice of her mentors.

“One ‘G’, zero knots is something I’ve heard experienced pilots say,” Bye said. “So, just sitting (in the aircraft) at zero knots is the best time to make decisions, because going 300 miles per hour is not the time where I want to make a decision without having thought about it.

“Which is why I think the Air Force and the military in general do a great job practicing emergency procedures because the more intuitive it is the more likely you are to handle the situation better,” Bye continued.

Along with her courageous flight are the extraordinary efforts of the 75th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron to repair the aircraft. The trust Bye has in a successful flight can be attributed to the hard work of the 75th AMU to restore tail-995.

“I’ve never seen anything like this before in my career,” said Staff Sgt. Austin Duffey, 75th AMU cann manager. “This was one of our biggest struggles because we had no experience with rebuilding a crashed jet.”

A cann manager is in charge of keeping record of parts taken from a cannibalizing jet. Since the A-10 is an increasingly difficult airframe to maintain, there were moments of uncertainty for the aircraft’s restoration.

“Previously, (the 75th) was unsure if it would fly again,” said Tech. Sgt. Ryan Foltz, 75th AMU cann manager. “We went through thousands of maintenance discrepancies over 650 pages of records in a matter of weeks. Overall, it was a 584-day project that lingered for a long time, but once we started to make progress you could see everyone getting excited about it.’’

Even though the 75th AMU faced adversity with the reconstruction of tail-995, they always met it with a fighting spirit.

“It doesn’t matter the challenge that the 75th faces,” Foltz said. “We attack it head on and always get the mission done.”

After the flight, Bye climbs out of the aircraft. She and the A-10 may look the same as they did when she took off in 2020, and the resiliency and innovation from the maintainers and operators made it all possible.