By Lt.j.g. Steve Mehr
As the P-8A Poseidon continues to mature as the Navy's premier anti-submarine warfare aircraft, the maritime patrol and reconnaissance community continues to experience a number of "firsts" with the new platform. On May 19, VP-5 qualified the first enlisted servicemen in the P-8A community to turn up engines on the P-8A without the presence or supervision of a pilot. This key milestone affords the P-8A community the same flexibility in performing aircraft maintenance as P-3s and the rest of naval aviation.
ADCS Christian Desiderio and AD1 Nicholas Vadney were hand selected to undergo a rigorous P-8A qualifications standards syllabus consisting of aircraft systems, mastering the fundamentals of flight deck checklists, and engine start procedures. After learning the basics, they were shown how to handle more complex and potentially dangerous situations such as engine start malfunctions and engine fires on the ground. Desiderio and Vadney put their knowledge into practice through multiple events in the simulator and in the aircraft and completed a written and oral exam. They finished their qualifications after completing a final check ride in the simulator.
Desiderio said the course proved to be both challenging and rewarding. "You can't be afraid to step out of your comfort zone. Success can only be achieved when you go beyond what you have already mastered. Learning the engine start checklists and procedures was unfamiliar but I embraced the opportunity to gain knowledge and master something new."
Since aircraft maintenance and upkeep are critical elements of a squadron's ability to perform its mission, the added flexibility of being able to tap into the skills of a squadron's mechanics to perform engine turns will be a force multiplier. Routine inspections and upkeep of the P-8A frequently require starting the engines so maintenance can perform work on the aircraft. Now, with pilots no longer being required to be on the plane to start and monitor the aircraft, a squadron's pilots become freed to prepare for their next mission.
"This qualification will result in maintenance being able to inspect and troubleshoot aircraft on a less restrictive schedule that better meets the demands of the squadron's dynamic environment," said Vadney.
This capability is especially critical during times of heightened operational tempo such as submarine prosecutions or aerial combat, since maintenance work will no longer need to be delayed to accommodate pilots' crew rest requirements.
VP-5's Commanding Officer, Cmdr. Joe Levy, added, "while I'm proud of the great professional achievement of these two Sailors and marking this important milestone for our community, this is all about combat effectiveness. We stand more ready to fulfill our squadron's responsibility to our national defense because of the effort our team put in to making this happen."