By Capt. Dicie Hritz, 171st Public Affairs
/ Published November 04, 2011
Nov. 2, 2011 -- What appeared to be a normal morning here at the 171st Air Refueling Wing turned into a special event for Technical Sgt. John Blinkey who is the crew chief for aircraft 58-000074 artfully pays tribute to the Pittsburgh Penguins on the nose of the aircraft. Pittsburgh Penguins players autographed the noseart of the aircraft at the Pittsburgh International Airport on Nov. 2, 2011 with Blinkey present to enjoy the occasion.
Blinkey is a true Pittsburgh Penguin fan, in and out. The crew chief of an aircraft has a great responsibility to ensure the aircraft is up to standards on all maintenance. With this great responsibility of being a crew chief at the 171st comes the honor of having a design of your choice submitted for approval to be displayed on the nose of your aircraft.
There was no question as to what Blinkey was hoping to have painted on the nose of 58-000074 when it came time to decide. After coordinating with the Penguins staff, he had a design ready for Ms. Donna Pitaro, a local artist, ready to paint on the aircraft in no time.
The Pittsburgh Penguins players and coaches signed the noseart of the aircraft prior to boarding a charter aircraft to take-off for their away games against the San Jose Sharks Nov. 3 and Los Angeles Kings Nov. 5 before returning back home for their game against the Dallas Stars on Nov. 11.
Ms. Donna Pitaro is the artist who has painted the noseart of the KC-135 Stratotankers stationed at the 171 ARW. Pitaro takes great pride into the paintings of the aircraft noseart.
The KC-135 aircraft flies missions all over the world supporting different operations. The noseart is a piece of work that is showcased across the globe when the aircraft is on various missions.
The players signed the aircraft with a paint marker which will be laminated onto the jet so it does not wear off with the weather. The signatures will be showcased proudly on the aircraft worldwide.
When asked how he felt about the Pittsburgh Penguins logo being displayed on the military aircraft, head coach Dan Bylsma said, "I think one of the highlights and one of the coolest things about being a head coach is being part of the Penguins is seeing the effect in some of the flags and some of the emblems we have overseas with our troops. To see it on a plane that goes over, it's pretty darn cool."