HomeNewsArticle Display

Edge of space emergency tests aviator’s skills

Maj. Jack Nelson is honored during a ceremony at the Pentagon in Washington, D.C., May 25, 2016. Nelson, from the 9th Reconnaissance Wing at Osan Air Base, South Korea, is the recipient of the 2015 Koren Kolligian Jr. Trophy for outstanding airmanship by an aircrew member who, by using extraordinary skills, averted or minimized the seriousness of an aircraft accident. (U.S. Air Force photo/Andy Morataya)

Maj. Jack Nelson is honored during a ceremony at the Pentagon in Washington, D.C., May 25, 2016. Nelson, from the 9th Reconnaissance Wing at Osan Air Base, South Korea, is the recipient of the 2015 Koren Kolligian Jr. Trophy for outstanding airmanship by an aircrew member who, by using extraordinary skills, averted or minimized the seriousness of an aircraft accident. (U.S. Air Force photo/Andy Morataya)

Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. Mark A. Welsh III hosts Maj. Jack Nelson and his family prior to Nelson receiving the 2015 Koren Kolligian Jr. Trophy at the Pentagon in Washington, D.C., May 25, 2016. Nelson, from the 9th Reconnaissance Wing at Osan Air Base, South Korea, received the award for his exceptional piloting skills and ingenuity at a moment of crisis during a mission. (U.S. Air Force photo/Andy Morataya)

Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. Mark A. Welsh III hosts Maj. Jack Nelson and his family prior to Nelson receiving the 2015 Koren Kolligian Jr. Trophy at the Pentagon in Washington, D.C., May 25, 2016. Nelson, from the 9th Reconnaissance Wing at Osan Air Base, South Korea, received the award for his exceptional piloting skills and ingenuity at a moment of crisis during a mission. (U.S. Air Force photo/Andy Morataya)

Kolligian family representative Corey Kolligian and Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. Mark A. Welsh III congratulate Maj. Jack Nelson during a ceremony at the Pentagon in Washington, D.C., May 25, 2016.  Nelson, from the 9th Reconnaissance Wing at Osan Air Base, South Korea, is the recipient of the 2015 Koren Kolligian Jr. Trophy for outstanding airmanship by an aircrew member who, by using extraordinary skills, averted or minimized the seriousness of an aircraft accident. (U.S. Air Force photo/Andy Morataya)

Kolligian family representative Corey Kolligian and Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. Mark A. Welsh III congratulate Maj. Jack Nelson during a ceremony at the Pentagon in Washington, D.C., May 25, 2016. Nelson, from the 9th Reconnaissance Wing at Osan Air Base, South Korea, is the recipient of the 2015 Koren Kolligian Jr. Trophy for outstanding airmanship by an aircrew member who, by using extraordinary skills, averted or minimized the seriousness of an aircraft accident. (U.S. Air Force photo/Andy Morataya)

WASHINGTON (AFNS) -- Imagine being at the cusp of the world, where everything flat warps and the earth’s curvature begins to appear.

Looking around on a bright and sunny day, the sky is a brilliant blue. The blue eventually turns to black as space comes within reach.

This is the view U-2 pilots like Maj. Jack Nelson witness each time they fly -- they get to see the world from a different perspective. It can be a pleasant experience when all goes well, but not when dealing with an in-flight emergency.

Nelson was flying high above the earth when the three multi-function displays that provide the information for the autopilot, navigation, primary heading and reference systems stopped working. To get home safely, he had to troubleshoot the issue while flying.

“Every aviator knows when you step out to a mission, there is an element of risk,” Nelson said. “There’s always risk that we accept. A lot of pilots don’t like to talk about it, and we don’t always want to think about it, but it’s definitely something that’s out there. Flying planes is a risky business, but it’s really great to know you have one of the best teams in the world that’s got your back when you are out there flying and something does go wrong.”

Nelson was able to reset the multi-function display; however, that wasn’t the end of his troubles. Shortly after the reset, the aircraft’s environmental control system malfunctioned, leaving the pilot flying in sub-zero temperatures.

After landing, Nelson reflected on the fact that there was a huge team of Airmen, civilians and contractors working overtime to get him home safely, many of whom greeted him on the flightline.

“Seeing how much they cared, their commitment and how hard they were working to try and find a solution was really cool,” Nelson said.
For his efforts, Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. Mark A. Welsh III presented Nelson with the 2015 Koren Kolligian Jr. Trophy during a ceremony May 25 at the Pentagon.

The annual award, first presented in 1958, is given to an Air Force aircrew member who displays extraordinary skill, alertness and ingenuity in averting or minimizing the seriousness of a flight mishap.

“It’s about taking a situation that’s not supposed to occur and turning it into normal, or at least as normal as you can get. For 59 years now, it’s 59 averted catastrophes; it’s 59 (intense) moments that became calm at some point. It’s 59 pilots or aircrew that came home to their families who might not have if they hadn’t been as prepared as they were,” Welsh said. “That’s what this award is all about. It’s real simple, and yet it’s magnificent.”

The award’s namesake, 1st Lt. Koren Kolligian Jr., was declared missing in the line of duty when his T-33 Shooting Star disappeared off the coast of California in 1955.

The Kolligian family attends and supports the award presentation every year, creating long-lasting friendships which are on display for all to see in three sets of photo albums. The family takes the citation and photos from the ceremony every year and places it in an album for the following year’s attendees to see.

“Since 1958 our family has been honored to be invited to the Pentagon,” said Koren Kolligian II, Lt. Kolligian’s nephew. “Every year we get to meet remarkable pilots, spending time with them and their families, sharing stories and creating friendships. Coming here every year is a powerful reminder of how truly fortunate we are to be Americans. We leave energized, infused with the pride, professionalism and dedication of everyone we meet throughout the day. We are appreciative and thankful to the men and women who ensure this ceremony continues to inspire all who attend.”

Nelson, a former wing safety officer, put his years of training and experience to the test, remaining calm under intense pressure.

"Our safety record in the Air Force is grounded on Airmen taking action based on training, experience and instinct to overcome challenges in mission accomplishment,” said Maj. Gen. Andrew M. Mueller, the Air Force chief of safety. “Skill, alertness and ingenuity are the hallmarks of our Kolligian award winners, and can often make the difference in the severity of a mishap. Maj. Jack Nelson was able to utilize all of these traits to respond to a unique and dangerous in-flight event. I am proud to stand with the Air Force chief of staff and the Kolligian family as this Air Force award is given.”

“Alone and unafraid” is a common term used in the U-2 enterprise. Think about being in an aircraft barely large enough to stretch your legs in, on the cusp of space, looking down on Earth can be daunting. However, Nelson said he was never alone. He had a team who assisted him in one of the most difficult days of his life.

Engage

Twitter
RT @KadenaAirBase: Airmen from the 18th Component Maintenance Squadron Hydraulics Shop ensure that #TeamKadena's aircraft are always ready…
Twitter
“It is good to remember how we got here and what it took for the previous generations to fight the battle of lettin… https://t.co/9gc1e2iaLd
Twitter
RT @GenCQBrownJr: When #Airmen are empowered, nothing should stand in their way of making positive change. #acceleratechangeorlose https://…
Twitter
Ending the spread of #COVID19 https://t.co/PCPw2vufLS
Twitter
Chaplain (Maj.) Gabriel Rios assumed the #AirForce's 1st stole at Dyess Air Force Base, Texas. The stole represents… https://t.co/BcgHvsKwjM
Twitter
RT @SecAFOfficial: Digital engineering is helping the Air & Space Forces, along with defense partners, field programs smarter & faster. The…
Twitter
“I saw my wingmen with families and young kids and didn’t want them to have to be away for too long, so I decided i… https://t.co/7lsjIymSyx
Twitter
"[Dr. Victoria Coleman] brings a wealth of expertise in both academia and industry. She recognizes that pushing the… https://t.co/73Otu5znlQ
Twitter
A Virtual Teen Camp will offer an introduction to aviation, and career and leadership opportunities within the… https://t.co/Hn0XBDu5uH
Twitter
The Three Dimensional Expeditionary Long-Range Radar program office at @Hanscom_AFB, Massachusetts, is currently ut… https://t.co/kppBPFby6h
Twitter
RT @GenCQBrownJr: The review we conducted last year, & the follow up efforts we’ve taken since, have really opened the door to meaningful,…
Twitter
Take a look at the most recent Week in Photos! Which one is your favorite? More at: https://t.co/HYMo58J8u6 https://t.co/VCR3yRicIl
Twitter
RT @USAFCENT: F-16s get topped off with fuel by a KC-135 while supporting CJTF-OIR, where the main mission is to Defeat Da'esh. #FightToWin
Twitter
.@146AirliftWing Airmen administer #COVID19 vaccines to military dependents at the Channel Islands Air National Gua… https://t.co/1Zq9vmf9w2
Twitter
RT @AFSpecOpsCmd: Global coordination with its finest 💥 During HIMARS and HIRAIN training, Air Commandos and @USMC successfully proved the…
Twitter
Today is National #FormerPOWRecognitionDay. This day honors the captured wartime service members who eventually cam… https://t.co/pIRIXAS6f7
Twitter
RT @SecAFOfficial: #TeamWhiteman welcomed Acting Secretary Roth today, where the base’s leadership & #Airmen showcased the unique capabilit…
Twitter
RT @AirNatlGuard: .@TXMilitary Airmen with the @149FW Med Group operate a COVID-19 vaccination clinic at Joint Base San Antonio-Lackland. T…
Facebook
The newest Air Force Podcast recently dropped. Listen to a small snippet of CMSAF Kaleth O. Wright talk with Staff Sgt. New about resiliency. Listen to the entire podcast on Youtube: https://go.usa.gov/xpnAD or Subscribe to The Air Force Podcast on iTunes: https://podcasts.apple.com/podcast/the-air-force-podcast/id1264107694?mt=2
Facebook
Our mantra, "Always ready!" It's the spirit we fly by! #B2Tuesday
Facebook
Need some motivation to get your week started off right? Listen as CMSAF Kaleth O. Wright weighs in...
Facebook
The U.S. Air Force Academy gives its cadets some unique opportunities. Ride along one of this opportunities.
Facebook
A United States Air Force KC-135 Stratotanker refuels an F-22 Raptor over northern Iraq, Nov. 6, 2019. U.S. Central Command operations deter adversaries and demonstrate support for allies and partners in the region. (Video by Staff Sgt. Daniel Snider)
Facebook
Although the Silver Star is the third-highest military medal, it's not given often. Today, TSgt Cody Smith was the 49th Special Tactics Airman to receive this medal since Sept. 11th, 2001. Read more of TSgt Smith's amazing story: https://www.airforcespecialtactics.af.mil/News/Article-Display/Article/2024815/special-tactics-airman-battled-through-injuries-awarded-silver-star/fbclid/IwAR2LZWwx1VHdTnQe39rIEBOuJS_0JvMQBBGt7I-E6zsxxn-Lx9387yu43Bc/ Cannon Air Force Base Air Force Special Operations Command United States Special Operations Command (USSOCOM) U.S. Department of Defense (DoD)
Facebook
Tune in as our Air Force musicians along with other military musicians are awarded the National Medal of Arts.
Facebook
Like Us
Twitter
1,341,655
Follow Us