Face of Defense: Cadet Spends Summer Launching Jets
By Joe B. Wiles
71st Flying Training Wing
WASHINGTON, Aug. 18, 2010 Of all the ways a college student could spend summer break, Aven Sanders chose to work on the flightline here as a crew chief, launching and recovering T-38 Talon jet trainers.
Aven Sanders, a summer-hire crew chief at Vance Air Force Base, Okla., conducts a T-38 Talon preflight inspection Aug. 10, 2010, with her father, Air Force Lt. Col. Patrick Sanders, a T-38 instructor pilot with the 5th Flying Training Squadron. Aven had the opportunity to launch her father’s jet several times during her temporary summer job. U.S. Air Force photo by Joe B. Wiles
(Click photo for screen-resolution image);high-resolution image available.
An Oklahoma State University sophomore and Air Force ROTC cadet, Aven is the daughter of Air Force Lt. Col. Patrick Sanders, a T-38 instructor pilot with the 5th Flying Training Squadron, an Air Force Reserve unit here. More than once during her time on the flightline this summer, Aven launched her father's aircraft.
Aven heard from a family friend that the support contractor at Vance was offering temporary summer jobs working with the T-1 Jayhawk, T-6A Texan II and T-38 Talon.
"I knew I would love being around the airplanes, so I figured, ‘Why not?’ and applied," she said.
Aven developed a love for flying early. She started flying at age 15 and earned her private pilot’s license about two years later. Her goal is to fly for the Air Force.
She started the temporary crew chief job May 24, followed by a week of computer-based training and two weeks shadowing an experienced crew chief.
She performed her first unassisted aircraft launch June 9, involving a T-38 crewed by an instructor pilot and a student. "I was a little nervous, but confident," she said. "It went OK, with no problems."
Aven's job as a crew chief is to prepare the aircraft for flight. She assists the aircrew with the external inspection of the aircraft, gets them strapped in, operates the compressor that starts the jet's engines and ensures all the control surfaces are responding. And finally, she gives the go for the aircraft to taxi.
When recovering the aircraft, she guides it into wheel chocks, secures the safety pins and helps the aircrew exit.
Aven's last day as a crew chief this summer was Aug. 12. Although classes won't begin at OSU until Aug. 23, practice began this week for her track and cross-country team.