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10 Globemaster IIIs fly in formation over Washington state

by Tyler Hemstreet

12/21/2006 - MCCHORD AIR FORCE BASE, Wash. (AFPN) -- Like an iron alligator in the sky, a band of 10 C-17 Globemaster IIIs flew in formation Dec. 21 from Puget Sound to eastern Washington .

Taking off in five-minute intervals from McChord AFB, C-17s with aircrews from the 62nd and 446th Airlift Wings rendezvoused in the sky to align into a single file formation before performing an airdrop over a site near Moses Lake.

The objective of the exercise was to test all the organizations and different aspects of the mission that have to come together to facilitate launching, executing and recovering a large formation of C-17s in a short period of time, said Lt. Col. Gregory Schwartz the 8th Airlift Squadron and mission commander.

"It's a great chance to get some valuable training and test our abilities to work together to meet a significant mission requirement," Colonel Schwartz said.

Flying a mere 2,000 feet between each plane, the 10-ship exercise added a level of difficulty pilots don't get when they are just simulating flying in routine, three-ship formations, Colonel Schwartz said.

The yearly exercise also enlisted the work of the 62nd and 446th Maintenance Groups members, who generated, launched and recovered the aircraft; 62nd Aerial Port Squadron members who built and recovered the platforms for the airdrop portion of the mission; and from 62nd Logistics Readiness Squadron members who supplied the transportation and fuel for the aircraft.

The 62nd Maintenance Group started planning for the operation a month ahead of time calling in reinforcements to help prepare all the jets, said Lt. Col. Thomas Jackson the deputy group commander of the 62nd Maintenance Group.

Several maintenance training crews were pulled from their programs to get "real, live hands-on training" and a team from the 373rd Training Detachment Squadron even pitched in, Colonel Jackson said.

"It's probably the biggest undertaking we've had since the Operational Readiness Inspection," Colonel Jackson said.

While the exercise utilized the same training drop zones as usual for aircrews, the large formation presented a unique opportunity for pilots, said Col. Damon Booth the commander of the 62nd Operations Group.

"It's routine training, just more complex because there are that many planes in the air at one time," Colonel Booth said. "We're trying to exercise the formation because it could be something we are required to do."

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