Damaged C-17 moved off Bagram runway
Posted : Saturday Feb 7, 2009 9:27:59 EST
More than 200 people and a 120-ton crane were needed to move a badly
damaged C-17 Globemaster off a runway at Bagram Airfield in Afghanistan.
The C-17 made a wheels-up landing Friday at the base, the largest
military airfield in Afghanistan. While the accident did not completely shut
down Air Force and Army flight operations out of Bagram, the plane wreckage
limited the use of Bagram until Monday’s operation.
“A lengthy runway closure is our worst nightmare at Bagram,” Brig. Gen.
Mike Holmes, commander of Bagram’s 455th Air Expeditionary Wing, said in Air
Crash recovery teams, some flown in because of the incident, developed a
plan to lift the $200 million plane long enough to lower its landing gear.
“Being a first-time incident did not impact our course of action. ...
This is what we train for,” said Tech. Sgt. Joseph Mixson, lead team chief
for crash recovery. “We put together a group of experts so we could pool our
resources and see what was available to work with at the time.”
After more than two days of concentrated effort, the recovery crew
managed to lift the aircraft high enough to extend its wheels and prepare it
for removal from the runway.
“We used a 120-ton crane assisted by six 26-ton airbags to finally lift
the aircraft from the runway,” Mixson said.
“The major lesson learned was that the technical data for a C-17 recovery
did not list any alternate methods,” Mixson added. “We were not able to
place the airbags in the positions they needed to be because the entire
fuselage section was laying on the runway. The crane allowed us to get the
airbags into position.”
The Air Force is not commenting on the cause of the incident. Separate
safety and accident investigation boards will search for factors leading to
the crash landing.
Typically, if a crew knows its large aircraft has landing gear problems
over Afghanistan and is otherwise airworthy, the plane is diverted for a
landing as far away as Europe or the Persian Gulf region, where bases are
better equipped to repair aircraft.
The last large Air Force jet to make a gear-up landing was a B-1B Lancer
in May 2006. An investigation determined that the four-man aircrew forgot to
lower the gear before touching down on a runway at Diego Garcia, an Indian
The investigation found that the pilots hadn't completed a mandatory
landing checklist and overlooked a host of warning lights intended to remind
them that the bomber's landing gear hadn't been lowered. An audio alarm that
would have advised the pilots to lower the gear had been turned off a few
minutes before they landed the plane.