C-17 test team conducts airdrop tests

  • Published
  • By Rob Bardua
  • Air Force Flight Test Center Public Affairs
An Air Force test team set out from here Feb. 2 on a C-17 Globemaster III to conduct egress and airdrop tests with help from soldiers at Fort Bragg, N.C.

Each of the tests supports a combat mission needs statement from Air Mobility Command. The egress testing will evaluate the emergency procedures for 190 people should the aircraft need to be evacuated while on the ground.

"What the test does is allow us to qualify a new palletized seating system for use on the C-17," said Maj. Monty Greer, director of the C-17 test team. "We'll load up the aircraft with people and cargo and then time how long it takes to get 190 people off the airplane using only two exit doors. Our goal is to get everyone off the aircraft in 90 seconds, which is also (a Federal Aviation Administration) standard."

As for the airdrop tests, Greer said they will be done in two phases. Each phase is designed to increase the maximum gross weight the C-17 can airdrop people from.

The first phase will increase the weight from the current 385,000-pound limit to 425,000 pounds for single door paratrooper operations, Greer said.

"The increased allowable weight translates to more fuel on board when the aircraft reaches its drop zone, which allows AMC to take the C-17 to places that can't currently be reached because of limitations on where a refueling tanker can operate," said Greer. "The goal is to go further into hostile skies, drop paratroopers and then get back to where more fuel is located."

The second phase of the airdrop testing will be conducted at 400,000 pounds with Army paratroopers jumping out simultaneously through dual doors.

"One of the concerns with dual-door operations is that when they go out simultaneously, they can come back together behind the aircraft and become entangled with each other," said Greer. "This test is designed to look at this center-lining tendency as well as the overall effect of the increased gross-weight flight conditions on the canopy and rigging."

According to Greer, Fort Bragg was the best place for this test.

"We could either take the airplane to where the jumpers are or bring all of the jumpers here," said Greer. "Fort Bragg has better ranges, is better equipped for rigging and packing parachutes, and has the number of paratroopers that we need for this mission."

The test mission will not require the Army paratroopers to do anything differently than what they usually do, said Greer.

"When they go out of the aircraft, it may feel a little bit different but for the most part, their actions are unchanged," said Greer. "Just the flight conditions have changed."

One airman who will enjoy this change of conditions is mechanic and assistant crew chief for the C-17, Airman 1st Class Ryan Barlowe.

Barlowe, who will be among those going from Edwards to help with the tests, said the trip has special significance for him since he has never had the chance to fly on the plane he directly supports.

"I've wanted to fly on it since I joined the military, but this particular plane usually just flies in the local area, and they don't take mechanics on those flights," said Barlowe. "I'm excited to go somewhere else in the United States and show everybody what the C-17 can do."

If these tests are successful, test officials said they will be implemented in combat, where many more people will see and experience the effects of what the C-17 can do.