On the flightline with maintainers – Instrument Flight Control Specialists

  • Published
  • By Airman 1st Class Hrair H. Palyan
  • 28th Bomb Wing Public Affairs
(Editor's Note: This feature story is part of the "On the Flightline with Maintainers" series that focuses on the Airmen who maintain B-1 bombers and the impact they have on the Air Force mission.)

Ellsworth B-1 bombers have provided the U.S. with ground and air superiority for more than two decades - an accomplishment that wouldn't be possible if not for Airmen who work timelessly around-the-clock to service and repair the base's bomber fleet.

Instrument flight controls specialists are one of the six specialties in the 28th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron's specialist section who are responsible for making sure each B-1 at Ellsworth functions properly.

IFC Airmen are tasked to maintain a myriad of mission critical systems on each B-1, including flight and offensive controls, communications and navigation.

"A lot of our work takes place inside the cockpit," said Senior Airman Cody Candrea, 28th AMXS instrument flight controls technician. "That's where we're able to take care of all of the parts that control how the aircraft flies, turns and pitches."

Candrea said servicing parts inside the B-1 cockpits require exacting attention to the smallest details.

"Those controls are very sensitive," Candrea explained. "Even minor adjustments to flight controls can change how much the aircraft turns and exactly when it responds to the pilot's commands. It makes a world of difference to the pilots, especially in cases when they count on the aircraft to perform precise maneuvers."

He said he first began to gain confidence in his ability to trouble shoot an aircraft during technical school at Keesler Air Force Base, Miss., and Sheppard AFB, Texas.

"The training I received at Keesler and Sheppard helped me get in the groove," Candrea said. "Eventually, when I got stationed at Ellsworth, I found out that although I was familiar with the tools and procedures used to repair an aircraft, I was completely unfamiliar with the B-1."

Candrea worked hard to learn and understand the "Bone," and aircraft unique in how it functions.

Staff Sgt. Patrick Gesick, 28th AMXS instrument flight controls lead technician, described the complexity of the B-1's airframe, noting that a number of its components have been upgraded since it entered service in 1986.

"Every aircraft has unique instrumentation and flight surfaces," emphasized Gesick. "In the 10 years I've been in, I worked on aircraft such as C-17 Globemasters and KC-10 Extenders, but none have been as technically advanced as the B-1."

Gesick said he had to start from scratch to learn how each instrument functioned on the B-1 when he arrived at Ellsworth one and one half years ago.

"I came here as a staff sergeant," said Gesick. "It was hard to readjust to a new aircraft again, but it was important that I did. As a seven level I'm expected to lead and train Airmen. I can't do that if I don't even know how to make repairs myself."

Candrea described an experience he shared with his wingman during a six-month deployment to Southwest Asia.

"Our rotation came up July 2012 and it was time to go," Candrea said. "It all felt surreal. It's not that I wasn't ready or anything, but even though I knew it was coming up, nothing quite describes a deployment until you experience one."

He added that some of the most memorable moments in his life came from his deployment, and that all he learned at home helped ensure he was able to accomplish his maintenance mission while deployed.

"I can't put into words how special the experience was," said Candrea. "I really appreciated the opportunity I was given to get out there and support our mission directly. It made a huge impact in my life."