RIVERSIDE, Calif. --
A Charleston C-17 Globemaster III aircrew won the 4th Air Force Aircrew Excellence Award, Nov. 19, for actions during a mission from Panama to the country of Curacao, located in the Lesser Antilles, earlier in the year.
The award recognized the contributions of aircrew members, under the call sign REACH 111, Lt. Col. Jeffrey Smith, 315th Operations Group aircraft commander, Lt. Col. Ryan Fleming, 300th Airlift Squadron pilot, Senior Master Sgt. Joshua Fugle, 701 AS loadmaster, Master Sgt. Candido Higuera, 701 AS loadmaster, Staff Sgt. Bryan Kelsey, 315th Contingency Response Flight loadmaster, Senior Airman Preston Kovarsky, 701 AS loadmaster and Staff Sgt. Lauren May, 437th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron.
On 1 Jun 2019, REACH 111, departed the United States in support of Joint Interagency Task Force South (the United States’ continuing support/interdiction efforts in Central and South America to fight the flow of narcotics) to airlift a U.S. Coast Guard HH-65 Dolphin helicopter from Panama to its forward operating location on the island nation of Curacao. After a weather delay in Panama, the crew began the final leg of their airlift delivery.
Once in the air, the jet gave an indication that the #3 engine generator was showing a fault. The crew immediately began checklists to learn more. Three minutes later, the right manifold failed. This indicated a problem with the jet’s systems heating/cooling/anti-ice on the right side of the aircraft.
“Fortunately, this situation was now presenting exactly as C-17 aircrew have been trained in quarterly simulator training for emergency wing fire procedures,’ Lt. Col. Stephen Campbell, 701 AS assistant chief pilot.
After running the emergency manifold checklist the crew declared an emergency with air traffic control and requested to divert back to Panama, some 120 nautical miles behind them. The crew also had spotters watching the right wing for any sign of smoke or fire. Just minutes later the scanners reported vapor coming off the right wing and the flight deck crew correctly diagnosed a #3 hydraulic quantity leak in progress.
Next, the crew shut down the #3 hydraulic system without losing the full amount of hydraulic fluid, which would be crucial to lowering the landing gear upon reaching the airfield. As the flight deck crew now correctly suspected a wing/pylon fire, they expedited the return to Panama, safely flying just below red-line airspeed for the aircraft. The pilots ran the wing/pylon fire checklist while the loadmasters and the flying crew chief cross-referenced all completed checklists and researched what further systems could be lost prior to landing.
“Upon reaching Panama’s airspace, the flight deck crew utilized exceptional systems’ knowledge and skill by utilizing an auxiliary #3 hydraulic pump that was located away from the fire location instead of the normal engine pumps that were damaged from the fire, thereby lowering the landing gear successfully and expeditiously,” Campbell said. “This action saved them precious minutes of recovery time as running the manual gear extension checklist without the use of the #3 hydraulic system is a lengthy and complicated procedure.”
Inspection of the #3 engine pylon by the flying crew chief showed the extensive damage done to the aircraft from the in-flight fire.
“The crew of REACH 111 masterfully executed a complicated international mission, dealing skillfully with challenging weather, aircraft systems malfunctions, and an initially hidden in-flight aircraft fire, said Col. Gregory Gilmour, 315th Airlift Wing commander.
“The exceptional professionalism of the crew ensured the success of the mission and more importantly, the safety of everyone aboard,” Gilmour added. “These members represent the finest in the airlift community and are the embodiment of Air Force core values.”
“An experienced Evaluator Aircraft Commander, Lt. Col. Smith effectively assessed the ever-changing environment and threats, and communicated with and employed each member of the crew in the most efficient manner possible to mitigate the real and potential hazards to the mission,” Lanier said. “Each crew member provided invaluable input to ensure all areas of concern were properly assessed.”
Maj. Gen. Randall Ogden, 4 AF commander, presented Col. Gregory Gilmour, 315th Airlift Wing commander, Col. Stephen Lanier, 315th Operations Group commander, and Chief Master Sgt. John-Paul Burke, 315 AW command chief, the award at last night the Raincross Trophy dinner in Riverside, California.
The Raincross Trophy recognizes exceptional airmanship during an individual mission or sustained operations and carries bragging rights as the best wing or group in the numbered Air Force. In 1998, the Greater Riverside Chambers of Commerce elected to commemorate the 'return home' of Fourth Air Force, by creating this new trophy to honor the best of the best in 4th Air Force.