Team Whiteman recovers A-10 aircraft

  • Published
  • By Airman 1st Class Cody H. Ramirez
  • 509th Bomb Wing Public Affairs

The Mishap Response

It was a Thursday afternoon before a holiday weekend. Most of Team Whiteman was closing shop and heading home in preparation for Independence Day.

An A-10 Thunderbolt II pilot from the 442nd Fighter Wing here was about to land that afternoon with probably the same plans -- land the aircraft, taxi in, shut down and enjoy the weekend. It didn't turn out that way though. Instead, the aircraft ended up off the runway and in need of assistance.

The event took place June 29, and emergency units responded to the scene immediately. A safety investigation board has convened to determine the cause.

The aircraft stayed where it landed overnight for inspection reasons, but an entry-control point was set-up with security forces guarding the aircraft around the clock.

By 4:30 p.m. the next day, response units from around base were on-scene to assist the aircraft move. With the help of a 60,000-pound crane, a semi-truck and a team of dedicated servicemembers, the aircraft was safely in a hangar in less than seven hours.

The 442nd FW, 509th Bomb Wing and 131st Bomb Wing worked together seamlessly to recover the crashed aircraft. A crash recovery team led by the 442nd FW was supported by members from active duty, the Air National Guard and Department of Defense civilians alike in the recovery of the 16-ton aircraft.

"The total force team of professionals made a very difficult task look routine," said Col. Eric Overturf, 442nd FW commander. "It made me proud of Team Whiteman to see everyone come together on short notice and get the mission done.

"It was inspirational to see the jet being lifted off the ground with fireworks from Ike Skelton Park going off in the distance," Colonel Overturf added. "It reminded me that we're part of the best Air Force in the world, and it was a 4th of July weekend memory that I'll never forget."

The Display Move

The recovery team's task to lift the 16-ton aircraft out of the dirt and into the safety of a hangar was helped by a decision to move an A-10 static display only 15 days prior to the accident.

An A-10 static display had been located next to Spirit Boulevard since 1994, but with the completion of the new 303rd Fighter Squadron building, the 442nd FW wanted to move the display closer to the new structure and the units who support the A-10.

"The static aircraft represents the 442nd [FW] and it didn't make sense for it to be geographically separated, so we wanted it closer to the area of base we reside," said Master Sgt. Tyler Bane, 442nd FW crashed damaged disabled aircraft recovery (CDDAR) team chief.

The A-10 display was lifted by helicopter when placed at its original spot in 1994, according to Sergeant Bane.

"We knew there was no way we could use a helicopter this time around," the sergeant added. "A helicopter lift would require help from too many agencies and a large amount of building evacuations, so we explored our options."

Sergeant Bane said his team noticed one important factor while exploring their options - there was no way the aircraft could be moved down the road with the wings attached. His team decided to remove the wings and take the aircraft to its new resting spot by road.

The 442nd FW coordinated the move through the 509th and 131st Bomb Wings starting in April 2011. With the assistance of all three units, and after months of coordination, the wings were removed by June 15.

The team brought a crane to the wingless and waiting aircraft that day; lifted it, swung it into the road and set it on its gears. The aircraft was then attached to a truck and towed to the 303rd Fighter Squadron building here. The crane was brought to the new site and the aircraft was lifted twice before coming to a comfortable rest next to the fighter squadron.

Sergeant Bane noted that the entire process only took four hours, "The job was as smooth as silk and played out exactly as planned - the way it should have."

The team chiefs were rotated throughout the process, so other could receive training. "I did the initial lift and the next two lifts were lead by 509th and 131st [BW] members," Sergeant Bane said.

Combined forces worked together with great success and ease, "Everyone was professional and geared toward getting the mission done," the sergeant said.