A Black Lettered Send Off

  • Published
  • By Senior Airman Andrew Garavito
  • 355th Wing Public Affairs

An HH-60G Pave Hawk helicopter, tail number A6224, maintained by U.S. Air Force Tech Sgt. Anthony Staley, 943rd Maintenance Squadron crew chief, and Senior Airman Harley Straps, 943rd MXS assistant crew chief, achieved a “black letter status” before its retirement at Davis-Monthan Air Force Base, Ariz., May 6, 2024.

The 943rd MXS has proven their effectiveness at not only achieving the mission standards but by attaining perfect marks during inspections.

“A ‘black lettered’ aircraft indicates that there is nothing wrong with it,” said Capt. Anthony Laporta, 943rd MXS director of operations. “I personally have been in the Air Force 19 years and have only seen it one other time. Most of these models have always carried a discrepancy.”

Throughout its service, A6224 has accumulated over 7,204 flight hours. The aircraft has participated in over one thousand successful real--world rescue missions. These missions range across the U.S. and supported evacuation efforts during Hurricane Katrina.

The helicopter was used in training over 300 pilots and other aircrew, directly impacting D-Ms mission. It has supported countless TDYs and 15 deployments to locations such as Turkey, Afghanistan, Somalia, Jordan, Syria, and Djibouti. The squadron’s creed is “anytime, anywhere” and has proven this through its record of operations.

This history is a testament to and reflects the work of the 943rd MXS. The quality assurance review took place weeks before the official retirement of the aircraft, emphasizing the squadron’s commitment to mission operations and standards.

“Our maintainers strive daily for excellence,” said Senior Master Sgt. Benjamin Wells 943rd MXS section chief. “The black letter on A6224 shows how hard they work, making sure a safe and well-maintained aircraft is always ready to support the 943rd Rescue Group combat search and rescue mission: ‘Conduct combat rescue operations to prevent the exploitation of isolated personnel and ensure their return.”

With the retirement of A6224 to the 309th Aerospace Maintenance and Regeneration Group, the team is prepared for the operational use of the HH-60W Pave-Hawk helicopters. The team will take their skills and standards developed over the years and execute their future mission with the same efficiency.

“With the induction of HH-60W models, leadership is confident in our maintainers to continue to strive for excellence in maintenance,” said Wells.

The effective training and professionalism of the Airmen at the 355th Wing play a role in the
many different organizational components of Rescue and Attack here at D-M.