I’ve been asked a bunch of times about what do Aircrewmen in the Navy that is different from what airline flight attendants do? While there are some similarities in training, Navy Aircrew are subjected to a lot more in-depth training due mostly to the environment we spend a lot of time operating over (trans-oceanic flights). The positions we man have some similarities to the airlines but are different in scope. The Navy has enlisted aircrew in most of their large fixed wing aircraft and all of their helicopters. But since my experience is in fixed wing, logistics aircraft, and that is what is the most similar to the airlines, that’s what I’ll talk about.

For the sake of comparison, let’s look at a 737-700 for a major airline vs. a Navy C-40A.
SWA 737-700Navy C-40A

The airline’s 737 entire crew consists of 2 pilots, and 3 crew members in the main cabin (FAA regulations require a flight attendant for every 50 passengers). Their focus is to get passengers and soft loaded cargo (baggage) to their destinations as quickly and safely as possible. They fly to airports that have maintenance support and are regular routes to various fixed based operators. Their schedules are fixed and rarely will divert to a different location (typically caused by adverse weather). Ultimately the goal of the airline is to generate revenue.

Cargo Door Open

Cargo Door Open

The aircraft I fly in is a C-40A. The C-40A is essentially a mutant version of the 737-700 series (with a large cargo door on the left side). We fly with a minimum crew of 2 pilots, one Crew Chief (Flight Engineer) and 2-3 crew members in the main cabin/main deck cargo area (FAA regulations requirements for 50 passengers per crew member are the same). However the reason the crew may only have 2 instead of three is that the C-40 can be converted to carry a combination of passengers and palletized cargo. The lead member of the cabin crew is the Loadmaster who’s responsible for loading the palletized cargo, passengers and soft cargo (baggage), calculating the weight and balance of the aircraft, and assists the pilots in calculating performance for take-off. He/she acts also acts as the lead flight attendant. The other cabin crew member(s) are 2nd Loadmasters assist the Loadmaster as required and are responsible for the comfort and safety of the passengers.

Crew Chief's view

Crew Chief's view

So you might ask, OK so why the 3rd person in the cockpit? The Crew Chief is the system’s expert, the safety observer and the en-route maintenance worker on the aircraft. He/she is responsible for ensuring the aircraft is safe, airworthy, maintained and additionally acts as the 3rd pair of eyes and ears in the cockpit and is an integral part handling any emergency procedure. The Navy keeps that 3rd person their because unlike the airlines, we fly our 737s (C-40’s) all over the world, much farther than and with a greater load. We also do not fly regular routes, nor do we fly into fixed based operators with maintenance support. So you guessed it, when it breaks, the Crew Chief is the one who fixes it so the mission can get accomplished.

Preflight Inspection

Preflight Inspection/Maintenance

Unlike the airlines, our focus isn’t on revenue, but rather getting passengers, cargo, and baggage where they need to be safely and on time. We can be called at a moment’s notice to transport what’s required to just about any destination in the world. Last minute tasking or changes to the itinerary aren’t uncommon. The original mission may have been scheduled to pick up a lift in California and take them to Hawaii. Due to operational requirement, the mission may get modified to take that lift to Alaska or perhaps pick up additional folks along the way. It happens frequently.

At first glance it might seem very disorganized but our mission is to serve the fleet. When their mission plans change, so do ours. The unofficial mantra for logistics aircrew is ‘Semper Gumby’ (always flexible). Being adaptable and flexible is the name of our game.

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