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From crash to recovery: Pilot, maintainers show resilience

A photo of an Airman looking in cockpit.

U.S. Air Force Capt. Taylor Bye, 75th Fighter Squadron standardization and evaluation chief, prepares to enter the A-10C Thunderbolt II tail-995 cockpit at Moody Air Force Base, Georgia, Nov. 3, 2021. During an in-flight emergency in April of 2020, Bye was forced to land the aircraft without landing gear or a canopy. This was her first sortie in tail-995 since its repairs. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Briana Beavers)

A photo of aircrafts flying.

U.S. Air Force Capt. Taylor Bye, 75th Fighter Squadron standardization and evaluation chief, and her wingman fly over the flightline at Moody Air Force Base, Georgia, Nov. 3, 2021. The pair flew on a basic surface attack to Grand Bay Range during the flight. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Briana Beavers)

A photo of an Airman working.

U.S. Air Force Airman Timmy Gisclair, 75th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron crew chief, performs a pre-flight maintenance check at Moody Air Force Base, Georgia, Nov. 3, 2021. The 75th AMU repaired A-10C tail-995’s damages from a gun malfunction and failed landing gear. Performing proper checks before and after flights is crucial to the safety of pilots. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Briana Beavers)

A photo of an aircraft flying.

U.S. Air Force Capt. Taylor Bye, 75th Fighter Squadron standardization and evaluation chief, lands A-10C Thunderbolt II tail-995 at Moody Air Force Base, Georgia, Nov. 3, 2021. Bye successfully landed her first flight in the aircraft since its restorations from a crash-landing that happened nearly 2 years ago. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Briana Beavers)

A photo of Airmen posing.

U.S. Air Force Staff Sgt. Austin Duffey, 75th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron cann manager, left, and Tech. Sgt. Ryan Foltz, 75th AMU cann manager, pose for a photo in front of A-10C Thunderbolt II tail-995 at Moody Air Force Base, Georgia, Nov. 4, 2021. Duffey, Foltz, and Master Sgt. Jamie Sansom, 75th AMU production superintendent, were the maintainers who oversaw the reconstruction of tail-995. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Briana Beavers)

A photo of a binder.

An Airman displays the aircraft forms binder for A-10C Thunderbolt II tail-995 at Moody Air Force Base, Georgia, Nov. 3, 2021. Within an aircraft forms binder is a record of every discrepancy that has been fixed or needs to be fixed on a particular aircraft. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Briana Beavers)

A photo of an Airman saluting.

U.S. Air Force Airman Timmy Gisclair, 75th Maintenance Squadron crew chief, salutes Capt. Taylor Bye, 75th Fighter Squadron standardization and evaluation chief, prior to her flight at Moody Air Force Base, Georgia, Nov. 3, 2021. The salute personifies the trust and connectedness of maintainers and pilots throughout the Air Force. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Briana Beavers).

A photo of an Airman in aircraft.

U.S. Air Force Capt. Taylor Bye, 75th Fighter Squadron standardization and evaluation chief, taxis to a canopy after her flight at Moody Air Force Base, Georgia, Nov. 3, 2021. Bye successfully flew A-10C Thunderbolt II tail-995 after it’s restorations from a gun-malfunction that caused her canopy to depart and stopped her landing gear from deploying. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Briana Beavers)

MOODY AIR FORCE BASE, Ga. --

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 that in-flight emergency.

 

Tail number 995 was recently restored, and who better to fly the aircraft than 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 make it all possible.