College student spends summer launching jets at Vance

  • Published
  • By Joe B. Wiles
  • 71st Flying Training Wing Public Affairs
There are many ways a college student can spend his or her summer break. Working on the flightline here as a crew chief, launching and recovering T-38 Talon jet trainers, was Aven Sanders' choice.

An Oklahoma State University sophomore and Air Force ROTC cadet, Aven is the daughter of Lt. Col. Patrick Sanders, a T-38 instructor pilot with the 5th Flying Training Squadron, an Air Force Reserve unit at Vance AFB. More than once during her time on the flightline this summer, Aven launched her father's aircraft.

Aven heard from a family friend that the support contractor at Vance AFB was offering temporary summer jobs working with the T-1 Jawhawk, T-6A Texan II and T-38 Talon.

"I knew I would love being around the airplanes, so I figured, why not, and applied," she said.

Aven developed a love for flying early. She started flying at 15 and earned her private pilot license by 17. Her goal is to fly for the Air Force.

She started the temporary crew chief job May 24, followed by a week of computer-based training and two weeks shadowing an experienced crew chief.

She performed her first unassisted aircraft launch June 9, a T-38 crewed by an instructor pilot and a student.

"I was a little nervous, but confident," she said. "It went okay with no problems."

Aven's job as a crew chief is to prepare the aircraft for flight. She assists the aircrew with the external inspection of the aircraft, gets them strapped in, operates the compressor that starts the jet's engines and ensures all the control surfaces are responding. And finally, she gives the go for the aircraft to taxi.

When recovering the aircraft, she guides it into wheel chocks, secures the safety pins and helps the aircrew exit the aircraft.

Aven's last day this summer is Aug. 12. Although classes won't begin at OSU until Aug. 23, practice begins for her track and cross-country team Aug. 16.