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Looking for a few good crew members

by Staff Sgt. Robert Burgess
97th Air Mobility Wing
Photo by: Staff Sgt. Robert Burgess
Senior Airman Abbey Skinner, right, and Master Sgt. Joe Barrett, 310th Airlift Squadron communications systems operators, review procedures on the C-37.

Altus AFB, Okla. - If the Wright brothers were around when the Air Force's C-37, a version of the Gulfstream V business jet, landed here Dec. 2, they would have marveled at how far aircraft design has come since their pioneering days.

On the tarmac for only a couple of hours, the modified jet and crew from the 310th Airlift Squadron impressed about 35 aircrew members and potential future aircrew members.

Maj. Dan Wright, 55th Air Refueling Squadron chief of the standardization and evaluations flight, has more than 2,800 hours in the eight years he's been flying KC-135s. The recently selected C-37 pilot said he is excited to be going to Florida, but more important about the opportunity to fly a different airframe.

Because of his last name, Major Wright said, "Sometimes people ask if I'm related to the Wright brothers. It would be nice to say yes, but no I'm not."

And if the Wright brothers were around today, they would agree with Col. Brian Kelly, 6th Operations Group commander, who was on his first off-station mission, when he said, "It's a dream to fly."

The jet is configured for 12 passengers and the standard crew complement includes; the pilot, co-pilot, flight engineer, communications system operator and flight attendant that support the combatant commanders and their staff during flight, according to Lt. Col. Keith Kreeger, 310th AS instructor pilot.

"Five C-37s support the combatant commanders and three are assigned to MacDill, two at Andrews AFB, Md., one at Hickam AFB, Hawaii, and at Chievres, Belgium," said Colonel Kreeger. "The plane is very similar to the C-17 with its integrated avionics system, however the displays and the levels of automation are somewhat more advanced."

The five planes are leased by the Air Force and as part of the lease, Gulfstream provides home station and enroute maintenance. "This aircraft was in Brussells, Belgium 24 hours ago and will be going to South America tomorrow, and it could be in the Pacific or Europe next week," said Colonel Kreeger. "If maintenance support is required enroute, Gulfstream will fly maintenance personnel and parts to the location."

The flight engineer also doubles as the mechanic and performs minor maintenance. Colonel Kreeger said, "Any flight engineer can apply for this assignment, although we do request a highly experienced instructor flight engineer. A civilian A&P is also desired but not mandatory."

The jet has a maximum range of 6,300 miles, its maximum cruising altitude is 49,000 feet and maximum flight time is about 11 hours. Once airborne, a communications system operator takes care of the high profile passenger's communication requirements.

"Operators are selected from airborne platforms (E-3s, E-4s, E-8s) and must be a senior airman and a qualified five-level," said Master Sgt. Joe Barrnett, superintendent communications flight.

In a year, they are (traveling) 120 days and their longest TDY trip for the 310th AS is about two weeks, said Senior Airman Abby Skinner, communications system operator.

To become a flight attendant on the aircraft, you have to be at least 21, a senior airman, lift 60 pounds and meet the minimum height requirement.

Colonel Kelly said, "Generally on any flight they will be on their feet the whole time."

Staff Sgt. Darryl Armistead, a flight attendant, said he can attest to that fact. He cross-trained from the surgical optomology technician career field several years ago and said, "Flight attendants do their initial tour at Andrews AFB and then can take follow-on assignments to places like MacDill."

He said, "Sure every job has its good points and its bad points, but the good far outweighs the bad. It's very rewarding; you get instant gratification right on the spot."

In the spotlight throughout the flight, Sergeant Armistead said what he has learned about the job is to let the minute things roll off of you, to take it all in stride. "I love my job, but it's not for everyone."

Flexible, fast and keeping commanders in communication, the 310th delivers in full.

 

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