HILL AIR FORCE BASE, Utah — Not many people know that a small contingent of experienced enlisted C-130 aircrew reside at Hill Air Force Base. They are charged with the depot support flights of Air Force overflow, and Navy and Marine Corps aircraft.
“There aren’t many people who do what we do,” said Master Sgt. Allen Clutter, a C-130 flight engineer attached to the 514th Flight Test Squadron at Hill Air Force Base.
Clutter, along with loadmaster Senior Master Sgt. Nicholas Palmer, are Air Force Reservists, on active-duty status, with what Clutter describes as probably one the best enlisted assignments in the Air Force.
Clutter and Palmer are part of the aviation team whose job it is to perform functional check flight tests on the C-130 Hercules aircraft coming out of depot status from the Ogden Air Logistics Complex at Hill.
Flight engineers are basically the link between the aircraft and the pilot, monitoring all aircraft engine and control systems in flight. They also compute take-off and landing data, and perform pre-flight and post-flight inspections when the aircraft is away from its home station. During the functional check flight, they perform comprehensive in-flight checks.
Their system knowledge is paramount to the safe and effective operation of the aircraft.
Loadmasters control and inspect the back of the aircraft, ensuring the safety of the people and cargo by computing weight and balance, creating cargo and passenger load plans and other mission-specific tasks such as airdrop duties. In addition, they function as the lookout in the back of the aircraft for functional check flight engine shut downs and emergency landing gear extension.
Palmer, the squadron’s most experienced loadmaster said, “Certification to perform functional check flights is a qualification that is unique and reserved only for the very experienced and for those with high flight time hours.”
Besides Clutter and Palmer, the 514th is manned with two additional flight engineers, Senior Master Sgt. Thomas Butts and Master Sgt. Jason Witherspoon and an additional loadmaster, Master Sgt. Christopher Caminiti. The five aircrew have a culmination of over 90-years of experience and more than 10,000 hours of flight time all in C-130 variant aircraft.
The C-130 Hercules is a versatile aircraft with long history dating back to the 1950s. Clutter said it is the workhorse of the military and he is proud to be a crewmember on an aircraft with such a storied history.
“It’s the greatest job I’ve ever had in my whole career,” said Clutter. “Checking the functionality of the aircraft is amazing. The aircraft has done so many things over its life and to be able to return these machines to the warfighter gives me a sense of satisfaction.”