HILL AIR FORCE BASE, Utah -- Could you Uber an F-16? Or Lyft a C-130? One Air Force Reserve Squadron at Hill Air Force Base, normally tasked with flying functional check flights with aircraft after depot maintenance, is stepping out of the box to provide that service.
Due to the COVID-19 crisis, the 514th Flight Test Squadron started a “taxi service” initiative to help keep aircraft inductions and deliveries from warfighting units, to and from the Ogden Air Logistics Complex, on-track.
Normally, pilots fly aircraft from bases around the country to the Ogden ALC and return home via a commercial a flight. The opposite happens when it’s time to pick up an aircraft that’s finished its depot maintenance or modifications at Hill AFB.
By providing a pick up and drop off service from the owning units, pilots from the 514th FLTS are helping keep our nation’s warfighters safe during these unprecedented times.
“Our unit’s mission of performing flight test flights on A-10, F-16, F-22, F-35, and C-130 aircraft is critical to ensuring the 309th Aircraft Maintenance Group’s depot timeline stays on track,” said Lt. Col. Nathan Litz, 514th FLTS commander. “With many units concerned about exposing their combat aircrew (to COVID-19) due to travel, our ability to pick up and drop off aircraft also enables their missions by decreasing their exposure.”
Lt. Col. Beau Wilkins, 514 FLTS test pilot, delivered an F-16 to Shaw Air Force Base, South Carolina, March 24. After delivering the aircraft, he rented a car and drove 423 miles to Dannelly Field located in Montgomery, Alabama, home of the 187th Fighter Wing, Alabama National Guard, where he picked up another F-16 and flew back to Hill AFB March 26.
Since mid-March, 514th FLTS aircrew have flown 53 sorties, providing 10 aircraft to depot delivery and returning 13 aircraft to the warfighter.
The squadron’s aircrew aren’t the only ones stepping up to support the mission during the pandemic.
When Secretary of the Defense Mark Esper put in place a face-covering mandate in early April, it became necessary for 514th FLTS aircrew and others around the DoD to wear them to mitigate the risk of contracting or spreading COVID-19 as they travel and interact with other mission essential personnel at various bases.
Due to the limited number of masks available, Tech. Sgt. Aaron Mckeage, 514th FLTS flight equipment technician with experience making hammocks and tents, offered to make masks for the squadron.
“I am frequently asked what challenges we are facing to our mission and what we are unable to get done due these constraints,” Litz said. “Due to the ingenuity and work ethic of my squadron personnel, my consistent answer is that we are still accomplishing our flight test mission and taking care of each other, but in a different manner.”
“I could not be more proud of how all the members of the 514th have handled the challenges of accomplishing the mission while taking care of each other and their families during the constraints of COVID-19,” he added.