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Fly Aboard a Wright-Patt Globemaster
WPAFB -- Wright-Patterson Air Force Base on Wednesday invited ABC 22/FOX 45 along for a firsthand look at the flight missions of the 445th AW and 434th ARW, both premier air mobility units in the Air Force Reserve Command.
Weighing in at 300 tons, the C-17 Globemaster is the Air Force's primary vehicle for delivering troops and cargo anywhere in the world. But when it's carrying bombs, cargo or troops taking off with enough fuel for the mission can be too much weight. So Wednesday's mission is training these troops to refuel the plane mid-air as we fly to Kentucky and back.
"It's been pretty nonstop the last few years," said Ben Strader, pilot with the 72nd air refueling squadron.
Strader has been deployed several times to Afghanistan just to do this job.
"If there's any long-range mission, any flight mission or cargo mission, without making multiple stops, they're going to need fuel in-flight," he said. "Without us to give them the fuel lives could be lost."
At 26,000 feet in the air, the pilots must link up with the C-17.
"For us the important thing is timing, we have to be in the right place at the right time and give them the gas that they need so they can complete their mission," said Rob Schneider, pilot with the 72nd air refueling squadron.
"I've put the boom down 10 feet, he knows I'm ready for contact," said Master Sgt. Christopher Nack, air-refueling instructor with 74th air refueling squadron.
With both planes traveling about 300 mph, connecting the two planes takes a lot of precision.
"Flying at night when the weather is bad and the receiver is low on fuel, he doesn't want to go down in Afghanistan, that's the last thing he wants to do so he needs that fuel very bad," said Boom Operator Instructor Master Sgt. Jerry Cummings. "If you've ever flown in turbulence you know how bad it can get."
It can take almost an hour to transfer the fuel from one plane to the other.
"You can see how inherently dangerous the job is," said Cummings. "They're extremely close to us. Probably 50 feet or less away from us. I mean, when you have two airplanes that size that close, the job itself is inherently dangerous. That's why we're out here doing these training flights to keep our currency up and our confidence up so when we have to do in real world it's like second nature."
Built by Boeing, the C-17 Globemaster III is the newest, most flexible cargo aircraft to enter the airlift force. At 174 feet long, 55 feet high and 169 feet wide, the 585,000 pound C-17 cost $202.3 million and can fly globally with in-flight refueling. Its four engines each push 40,440 pounds of thrust.
The 445th Airlift Wing at Wright-Patterson currently has nine C-17 Globemaster III aircraft that have logged more than 50,000 flight hours. More than 20,000 aeromedical evacuation patients have transported out of the Middle East and more than 78 million pounds of war material have been transported through them.
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