It’s 530 am and the Forida sun may not be up, but the Aviation section of the Golden Knights is. Several preparations must be completed prior to the first jump of the day, ranging from servicing the aircraft to extensive pre-flight inspections. This is often accomplished with a strong flash light and gloves. The aircraft looks as if it’s on life support as the ground equipment is connected to it and pumping life into the airplane. The loud hum of the ground power unit lights up the C-31′s cabin and cockpit via it’s electrical output. The Crew Chief wants to make sure he doesn’t overlook any important indications that would be missed with a flashlight. Something as simple as misreading a pneumatic pressure gauge could ground the airplane and terminate the numerous jump operations that would follow for the day.
Meanwhile, the “air cart” pumps pressurized air into the aircraft pneumatic system. The aircraft pneumatic system is vital for the complete operation of the landing gear, braking, and steering the aircraft on the ground. These systems do fail as it would on any other aircraft, so special attention must be made by the Crew Chief. Engine-driven gearbox’s are scrutinized and inspected closely for proper oil levels, connections, and signs of damage to any of the components. You will often see a Golden Knight Crew Chief perform nearly half the pre-flight checks on a ladder, this is due to the fact that the engines and other aircraft systems are well beyond reach.
After returning the ladder to it’s designated place in the cabin, the Crew Chief inspects of the aircraft’s tires and wheels. Tire pressure is incredibly important in any aircraft, we cannot afford to “pull over to the side of the road” if an aircraft tire were to blow out due to improper care. When supporting 44,000 pounds at speeds of up to 140mph, tire pressures are crucial and are to be kept within 4 PSI of the 80 PSI requirement. Other checks are as simple as checking the skin of the aircraft for cracks, loose screws, missing rivets, and de-ice boot conditions. De-ice boots are inflatable rubber blankets that wrap around the leading edges of the wings, and tail section. Although it may not be near freezing on the warm Florida surface, we do operate at high and cold altitudes that present the possibility of ice, so this essential item is certainly not overlooked.
After completion of the Crew Chief’s checks, the Pilots of TEAM 6 perform their extensive and thorough checks. Like Crew Chiefs, the Pilots do not take these daily morning checks lightly. Any discrepancy is taken serious and handled immediately. We are in the business of providing a second-to-none support to the Golden Knight’s jump teams. After completion of the Crew’s pre-flight inspection, the Crew Chief removes the landing gear locking mechanisms, and the landing gear chocks.
Sitting in the cockpit, the pilot raises three fingers to the Crew Chief standing at the nose of the airplane at the ready. The pilot is essentially asking if the locks are removed, which the Crew Chief replies with a thumbs up. The pilot then holds up two fingers to indicate they are ready to start the number two engine. The Crew Chief checks for the security of the area, and replies with a thumbs up while pointing at the engine. The same is repeated for the number one engine. The engines are started, and the crew is prepared for the arrival of the first demonstration team of the day.