Team Dover aircrew members embarked on a unique training mission. May 17 2013 from Dover Air Force Base, Del., to Gunnison-Crested Butte Regional Airport Colo., to train on how to maneuver arrive and depart at high altitude airfields.
The Fly-Away Tactics Training helps aircrews get a feel for simulated threats, aerial refueling, departures, maneuvering, and arrivals while in a high altitude setting, allowing pilots and co-pilots a chance to hone both preflight planning and execution of skills needed while in deploying to Afghanistan and other high altitude bases.
"With tactics, our main function is to avoid, deny, defeat and destroy," Lt. Col. Erin Meinders, 3rd Airlift Squadron director of operations said. "Of those, Air Mobility Command uses 'avoid' in over 90 percent of operations, and they accomplish this with mission planning."
Mission planning for the sortie took two days. Every detail was taken into account including elevation, minimum safe altitudes, simulated threat avoidance, pilot-change over points and even heading turns. Meinders said this was an essential part of the training.
"The two days of planning helped the pilots start thinking and preparing to execute the training," said Meinders. "There were two threats in this training, the simulated radar guide and the real threat of the ground."
The ground is always the top threat an aircrew faces, said Meinders.
"This training has laid the foundation for later missions," said Meinders.
Due to sequestration, training hours and off-base sorties are getting cut down. Planning allows more training to happen in a shorter amount of time.
"Every time training is complete we get an after-action report from the aircraft commander," said Capt. Zachary Walrond, 3rd AS chief of tactics. "That allows us to focus the training next time on the most important points."
This training took place in the mountains of Colorado ending with multiple approaches into Gunnison-Crested Butte Regional Airport, an airport with an estimated elevation of 7,680 feet above sea level.
"High altitude airfields are common in Afghanistan," said Maj. Curt Haase, 3rd AS chief of wing tactics. "We planned this flight to simulate the environment we currently fly in."
The lowest possible elevation of an airport in Afghanistan is an estimated 3,515 feet. At higher altitudes the air is thinner making engines less efficient.
"The plane flies differently at higher altitudes, which creates a totally different training environment," said Walrond. "With the thinner air, we have to give much more power and start our flair much sooner to be able to land soft enough as to not damage the aircraft."
The training was beneficial to the aircrew, said Walrond.
"We want to make the training standard," said Walrond. "Not only is the flying experience good, but also the amount of planning. When you go into mountainous terrain or areas you have never been, it requires more planning to ensure safety of flight."
There is no substitute for the real experience of flying in these types of situations, said Haase.
"This is not an annual requirement." said Haase. "But, we are always looking for non-standard training events, and high pressure altitude training is hard to come by on the East Coast."
by Senior Airman Jared Duhon
436th Airlift Wing Public Affairs
Source: Air Mobility Command
Date: May 31, 2013