Unit scrambles to guide troubled aircraft to safe landing

  • Published
  • By Capt. Shannon Mann
  • 916th Air Refueling Wing Public Affairs
Airmen of the Air Force Reserve Command's 916th Air Refueling Wing here scrambled to launch an early morning mission April 17 to rendezvous with and help safely land an Air Force aircraft that lost critical instrumentation.

The NCK-135 aircrew from Kirtland Air Force Base, N.M., called an in-flight emergency above the base's airspace.

"We got the call shortly after 7 a.m.," said Master Sgt. James Loper, of the 916th ARW command post. "In less than an hour, maintenance generated a plane, operations generated a crew and the command post coordinated the efforts to help this crew in trouble."

Lt. Col. Todd Chaney, the chief of standardization and evaluation, received the call to get ready to fly.

"They lost the instruments that tell them their airspeed and altitude," Colonel Chaney said. "We were able to rendezvous with them above our airspace, fly on their wing and help them land." 

Airmen assigned to the 916th ARW fly the KC-135 Stratotanker, a close variant of the troubled aircraft.

Colonel Chaney said this was the first time he'd ever helped a plane visually land, although he has been on the other end of the scenario.

"It's pretty unusual to lose everything," he said. "They did have a hand-held GPS and ground radar was able to give them some information, so they weren't totally blind. But it is still disconcerting when something like this happens."

Colonel Chaney said the maintainers showed their dedication to the mission by providing a plane within 15 minutes.

"Our jet and ops crew walked them into a perfect landing," said Maj. Pete Wojihowski, the 916th Maintenance Group commander.

Lt. Col. Joseph Powers, the troubled aircraft's commander, said the crew followed their training, came up with a plan of execution and selected Seymour Johnson AFB as the closest place to land. He said those involved in their safe recovery were outstanding.

"They were a valuable asset to our safe landing," he said.

A maintenance crew from Kirtland AFB is enroute to Seymour Johnson AFB to repair the aircraft.

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