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In Box: Adrian

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C-17 at night, from Adrian Vargo

Adrian Vargo, Flying Crew Chief

Mr. Haskel,

I'm a C-17 avionics maintainer by trade, but have been a flying crew chief for the last few years racking up a few thousand hours sitting behind copilots, and absolutely loving every minute of flying. A few missions ago during a CRM discussion while crossing the pond, a Lt cited some of your wisdom, and while I sit sober on alert this weekend decided to look up and spent the day reading up on your stories. Absolutely the best I've ever read. While I don't always understand all the approach plate lingo, everything else you relate is right on point with what I've observed in combat airlift. Just wanted to thank you for the effort you've put into posting such information, and someday I hope to have the time to write out my stories the same.

Very Respectfully,

Adrian W. Vargo, SSgt, USAF
Instruments & Flight Controls Craftsman
C-17 Flying Crew Chief

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"You call, we haul," from Adrian Vargo

A few months back I had was on a desert stage to evacuate a closing Marine base with 9 C-17s flying twice a day 7 days a week for three months with 18 crews, and only 4 of us FCC's. When the first set of 18 crews max timed out on flying hours, another rotation of pilots and loads were brought in, but me and my three other partners kept pressing on. Hardest I've ever worked, and some of the best pilots I've seen driving the most advanced airlifter the world has ever seen. (VVI of 19500 ft/min with all four motors in idle reverse and full speed brakes is the most fun I've had with a flight suit on.) All the way to three different times I thought I was going to die resulting in one Q3, one Q2, and my first and hopefully only occurrence of calling a go around. Your points on SA were proven to me that day now that I think back on it.

I'll attach one of my favorite pictures of the trip out of the 1000 or so I took where we proved, "You call? We haul. Fits through the door? Chain it to the floor." Ended up with over 3000 pieces of rolling stock pulled out of country and the happiest group of Marines going home. Not sure if you saw the movie Fury, but the line I now quote out of it is, "Best damn job I ever had."

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E-4B, Cape Verde, from Adrian Vargo

I looked back through some photos from a mission I did last year dragging this guy's generators and air conditioners around Africa.

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E-4B, Cape Verde, from Adrian Vargo

Also, since your a tanker guy, even though they are R models, still truckin' on. On the ramp at Manas with my third deployment, the sun was setting over two of Boeing's finest, and I thought, "Old school, or new school. Either way you are gonna get schooled..."

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C-17 at night, from Adrian Vargo

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C-17 air refueling, from Adrian Vargo

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C-17 air refueling, from Adrian Vargo

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C-17 air refueling, from Adrian Vargo

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C-17 air refueling, from Adrian Vargo

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C-17 air refueling, from Adrian Vargo

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C-17 air refueling, from Adrian Vargo

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C-17 air refueling, from Adrian Vargo

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C-17 air refueling, from Adrian Vargo

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C-17 air refueling, from Adrian Vargo

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C-17 air refueling, from Adrian Vargo

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C-17 air refueling, from Adrian Vargo

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C-17 air refueling, from Adrian Vargo

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C-17 air refueling, from Adrian Vargo

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C-17 air refueling, from Adrian Vargo

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C-17 air refueling, from Adrian Vargo

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Baghdad Sunrise, from Adrian Vargo

Yesterday's morning sun breaking over Baghdad.

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C-17 Engine maintenance, from Adrian Vargo

Only have had an in flight continuous compressor stall with a precautionary engine shutdown as excitement lately. I know she'll fly fine heavyweight on three all day, but it is an attention getting feeling with a master warning and thrust loss alarm with the number two throttle set, and the engine tape rolling back to idle as the EEC tries to clear itself. Diverted to Italy and I changed a fuel pump/fuel controller, along with finding a few other things that could have caused the problem on this four time repeat over the previous week. Book said our variable stater vane controller linkage could have a maximum of 300 inch pounds to close, and mine would bind around 500 inch lbs and finally snap shut above the 600 of my wrench. Crisis management team of P&W, Boeing, myself, and 10 other people I didn't know were on a conference call all arguing. I asked everyone to stop, and said, "1. Can I run this engine, and 2. Can we safely fly it home for an engine change?" *crickets* Finally the Charleston P&W engineer said if I power ran it for an hour straight on the limits, and it passed the snap accell/decell checks, he'd wright our ED to get us home. 2 in the morning at Sig, I woke the island up with an on the runway 1 hour run of numbers 2 and 3 at 1.42 EPR. Our limit is 625 degrees continuous, and 20mins at 20deg more. Pull it back a point flirting with those temps, and no fuel delivery caused stalls. Technique of pausing at reverse idle before going back to power just helps the core and fan blocker doors to last, but 10 times we sat at max reverse, then pushing to max forward to time the acceleration and the rocking we had with a ramp weight of 480k surprised me. Never have run motors that hard before, but no stalls. I was using a loadmaster on ground, and my AC sitting right seat as the second person, and we all had a new respect what these girls could take. Uneventful return of the bird across the ocean, and that engine was changed "during scheduled downtime" to not hurt the matrices. Oh well, sometimes we just pump gas, and sometimes we do work!

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"Destiny," from Adrian Vargo

For sure I've not known a higher caliber than old school military aviators. In the beginning of the year I had missed my grandmother's funeral when I was in Kuwait on a flying stage, but the trips just came together between two Iraq missions this summer for me to be home, and head up to PA. An amazing service that my uncle and I were able to get the VFW for a M1 21 gun salute, and two sailors from the Lakehurst honor guard for a flag folding.

He was a parachute rigger by trade joining the Navy in the summer of 1941. Led to a 6 year TDY in the south Pacific as a tail gunner and radioman on TBM Avengers. Makes a 6 month C-17 stage seem like a trip to Walmart. I don't know how they did it other than it had to be done.

This was the eulogy I was able to put together on the westward ocean crossing heading home.

“The eternal sky, temptress to all airmen, joined with fate, guardian of the lucky and betrayer of the less favored.” My grandfather was a Naval Aviator and by all accounts, one of the lucky ones indeed.

His tails of military aviation captivated me from as young as I can remember. The summer before first grade I recall riding in the jump seat of his extended cab Ford not being able to see outside, but fully believing we were in fact flying a foot off the ground because he said we were.

As I was older and more understanding, his stories showed more of the horrors of war. Ronald Regan had said, “Freedom is never more than one generation away from extinction. We didn't pass it to our children in the bloodstream. It must be fought for, protected, and handed on for them to do the same.”

After the attacks of September 11th 2001, I had asked him if this was the same as December 7th 1941. He said it was, and that we needed to avenge without mercy. To this day my own drive to serve in the United States Air Force comes from that very exchange on a Tuesday evening. A torch was passed of Vargo men going to war.

Now my own tails of flying in combat as I told him on my treasured trips to Easton PA and the Fleas Club caused instant smiles of the Old Man and his comment that, “You and me, we’ve become the same.” I can only hope that will never change.

Revision: 20151220
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