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Last AC-130U, Gets Black Letter

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The Air Force's last AC-130U gunship, named 'Big Daddy,' made history before a flight this month

Airman 1st Class Hailey Ziegler, US Air Force

Jun 29, 2020, 9:44 AM

The last AC-130U Spooky gunship to retire, aircraft 0128, also known as "Big Daddy," on the flightline at Hurlburt Field, Florida, June 26, 2020. US Air Force/Airman 1st Class Hailey M. Ziegler

  • An AC-130U Spooky gunship named "Big Daddy" made history by being the first Spooky to ever receive a black letter initial on its status page before a flight.

  • A black letter means the aircraft has no maintenance discrepancies and is a rare feat for any Air Force plane.

  • The Air Force is phasing out the AC-130U. Big Daddy will be the last to retire and will be placed in the Hurlburt Field Air Park.

HURLBURT FIELD, Florida — An AC-130U Spooky gunship named "Big Daddy" made history by being the first Spooky to ever receive a black letter initial on its status page before a flight, June 18, 2020.

This was a momentous accomplishment for Air Commandos in the 4th Special Operations Squadron and the 4th AMU.

"A black letter is significant because it means there are absolutely no discrepancies whatsoever on the plane," said US Air Force Tech. Sgt. Mark Lennon, a section chief with the 4th Aircraft Maintenance Unit. "A black letter is when there's no discrepancies on the status page. The crew chief's last name and first initial goes in that place. It shows that aircraft has really been maintained with excellence."

This standard of excellence is only achieved through teamwork.

"It's a huge teamwork effort and accomplishment for everyone," said Lennon. "It takes a lot of hard work and pride to make this happen."

The last Spooky, named "Gunslinger," retired to the boneyard at Davis-Monthan Air Force Base, Arizona, June 26, 2020. However, Big Daddy will be the last to retire and will be placed in the Hurlburt Field Air Park.

Any time an aircraft flies, it could come back with any number of discrepancies or those discrepancies which can be found when maintainers do their inspections.

"Aircraft across the Air Force usually fly with discrepancies, so it's really rare to see a black letter initial," said Lennon. "In my 11 years in service, I've only seen it one other time."

The Spookys have been operational since 1995, providing combat overwatch for 18 of those years. The heavily armed aircraft incorporates side-firing weapons integrated with sophisticated sensor, navigation, and fire-control systems to provide surgical firepower or area saturation during extended loiter periods, at night and in adverse weather.

The mission down range has been taken over by the AC-130J Ghostrider gunships since July 2019. The same aircraft the 4th SOS and AMU will now be working with.

"After 25 years of service, we're closing one chapter and starting another with the AC-130Js," said US Air Force Capt. Hannah Boeman, officer in charge with the 4th AMU. "Talking to a lot of the maintainers at the 4th AMU, it's kind of a bittersweet moment for them. Since most of them have spent a majority of their career working with these aircraft, I know it's sad to see them go."

Last AC-130U.jpg

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Gimme the BPO work cards and 1 hour, and I'll throw down three "red-x's" and 20 "/'s"

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