(Ramstein Air Base, Germany, July 21, 2009) -- With Swedish and U.S. Air Force pilots in the cockpit, the first C-17 Globemaster III to belong to a 12-nation strategic airlift initiative topped off its gas tank in flight for the first time Friday while over the Atlantic, courtesy of a Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst tanker and crew.
"It was cool," said Swedish Air Force Maj. Niclas Akesson, the C-17 co-pilot who handled the pre-refueling checklists, preparing SAC 01, as the C-17 is known, for the connection on its 5,300-nautical-mile maiden flight home. "It went very smoothly, and the whole team did a great job."
SAC 01 was picked up from Boeing's C-17 final assembly facility in Long Beach, Calif.; flew cross country to Charleston AFB, S.C., where it took on 109,000 pounds of cargo; and departed Friday for Hungary, its new home.
"We were just barely under max take-off weight leaving Charleston," said U.S. Air Force Capt. Corey Reed, the C-17 pilot who took the controls from Major Akesson once the KC-10 tanker aircraft was within 50 feet of SAC 01. He explained that to accommodate the cargo's weight, SAC 01 took off with less than its max fuel capacity and then required topping off once in flight just off the east coast of the U.S.
A tanker aircrew from the 32nd Air Refueling Squadron -- Capt. Sean Chuplis, 1st Lt. Dan Gilbertson, Tech. Sgt. Tyrell Phew and Master Sgt. Jody Riggs -- had the honors of making the first connection in flight with SAC 01, offloading 65,000 pounds of fuel in roughly an hour as the sun set and darkness fell.
The C-17 is the first of three to be acquired by the 12-nation Strategic Airlift Capability Program, which was made official in September 2008. The C-17s will be flown by the SAC Program's multinational, operational-level unit, the Heavy Airlift Wing, which will be activated July 27 at Papa Air Base, Hungary, and begin flying operational missions just days later.
The nations have invested in a percentage of the total annual flying hours for SAC 01 and the other two C-17s that will join the HAW in the fall. Each nation will determine how best to use its flight hours to meet its obligations to NATO, the European Union and the United Nations.
The consortium includes NATO member nations Bulgaria, Estonia, Hungary, Lithuania, the Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Romania, Slovenia and the United States, as well as Partnership for Peace nations Finland and Sweden.
Like other military pilots from European nations who volunteered for assignment to the HAW, Major Akesson attended C-17 pilot initial qualification training at Altus Air Force Base, Okla., this spring.
"This was my second real-world sortie," said the major of the SAC 01 mission from Charleston to Papa, citing the first three were during his initial training. "And it was my first operational aerial refueling."
For Major Akesson, the refueling brought him non-stop to his new home, literally.
"I did the final landing at Papa and that began my first duty day at Papa," said the major, who began his official HAW flight duties in Long Beach just days earlier without having visited his new Hungarian home.
Related Research on ASDReports.com: