Keep your "tricycle" balanced

  • Published
  • By Chief Master Sgt. Stephen Brown
  • 507th Air Refueling Wing Command Chief
Several years ago I used to look to the sky, see a small aircraft flying by and tell my wife, one day I'd like to have that kind of freedom. That year I received flying lessons as a birthday present from my wife and mother.
While learning how to fly, I realized that although you do have certain freedoms, none of these come free; not that it costs an arm and a leg, but that you must dedicate your time to absolutely absorb everything you could possibly learn about flight patterns, weather, planning, charts, airport diagrams, flight characteristics and the aircraft you are preparing to fly.....or more!

I remember going over the preflight checklist and inspecting the aircraft in a repetitive yet meticulous manner, always talking through the checklist so both myself and the instructor could hear the inspection followed by "check" or "uh oh, where's maintenance"!

One thing in particular you always look at is the landing gear. Several small aircraft have a landing gear referred to as a "tricycle". This is one of the most critical components of the aircraft as it reacts to the largest loads placed on the aircraft. The landing gear controls the rate of compression/extension and prevents damage to the aircraft. The landing gear must be tough, corrosion resistant and capable of absorbing incredible shock.

I'll never forget my first solo landing...I kept flopping down the runway before I finally stayed down and taxied around to give it another go. My flight instructor was on the radio providing positive statements such as "nice pancakes" and "how many times do you plan on flopping?" Honestly, the first thing I did when the flight was over was a thorough inspection of the landing gear; I could have sworn I cracked or broke something.

So why do I bring up my first solo flight, flying lessons, inspecting the landing gear....because that is what we do every day as citizen airmen. If any of the three tires, struts or attachment points of the "tricycle" gear gives way, I'd be in a heck of a mess. Similarly, we are on a three legged stool, balancing civilian jobs, our military commitment and our families. Take the time to inspect the legs of your stool and make sure they are strong yet flexible. Be a good wingman; if you see your fellow Airman falling "off kilter", speak up as sometimes we get so focused on one leg, we don't notice we are off on another.

The mission of this wing is constantly moving and we as citizen airmen are perpetually adapting to the changes thrown our way. Keep in mind, we are all in this together, so don't ever think your problems are isolated. Resources are available to help all of our airmen if and when they are in need. Utilize your resources and stay strong.