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28 January 2006 - Wattisham

Multiple movements at the weekend as Exercise 'Herrick Eagle' continues with RAF Chinooks airlifting loads to Abingdon. This major exercise involves most of the Joint Helicopter Command's (JHC) assets and 16 Air Assault Brigade. More details soon. Picture courtesy Gary Stedman

12 January 2006 - Mildenhall

Departing Mildenhall today was an EC-130 Commando Solo. The EC-130E/J is a specially-modified four-engine Hercules transport that conducts information operations, psychological operations and civil affairs broadcasts in AM, FM, HF, TV and military communications bands. A typical mission consists of a single-ship orbit offset from the desired target audience - either military or civilian personnel.

Many modifications have been made to Commando Solo. These include enhanced navigation systems, self-protection equipment, air refuelling and the capability of broadcasting radio and colour TV on all worldwide standards. Picture courtesy Matthew Clements


9 January 2006 - Newark

Newark Air Museumís latest exhibit, Scottish Aviation Bulldog XX634 (T) c/n BH 120/304 arrived at the museumís Winthorpe Airfield site on Monday 9 January.

The purchase of this primary military trainer from Parrallel Aviation has been made possible thanks to a 50% grant from the PRISM Fund and museum member donations made under the Gift Aid Scheme.

It is believed that XX634 has previously been used for limited spare parts recovery and the relatively short journey from Wellesbourne Mountford, Warwickshire was completed by Nottinghamshire transport company Hutchinson Engineering Services Ltd.

The Bulldog type was derived from the Beagle Pup light aircraft and for many years provided side-by-side dual control training in the Royal Air Force. Like many other Bulldogs, XX634 saw extensive service with various University Air Squadrons including: Cambridge UAS, Manchester & Salford UAS, East Midlands UAS and Liverpool UAS. Other RAF units XX634 flew with include: 3 Flying Training School, 2 FTS, the Central Flying School, with some time being spent local to Newark Air Museum at RAF Cranwell, Lincs.

By adding a Bulldog to its collection Newark Air Museum has further expanded its extensive display of training aircraft. Courtesy Howard Heeley, Down to Earth Promotions


6 January 2006 - Mildenhall

RAF MILDENHALL, SUFFOLK -- Senior Airman Jason Cobb, 100th Maintenance Squadron aircraft structural maintainer, spray paints the first bit of balck on a decal to include nose art and the crew chief block on the 100th Air Refeuling Wing's flagship 58-0100. This aircraft is also the only one in the 100th ARW to carry the "Let's Roll" nose art to commemorate United Flight 93 and the 11 September 2001 terrorist attacks. The 100th ARW welcomed back aircraft 0100 during a ceremony on 4 January. The aircraft was last assigned to the 100th ARW from 1992 to 1996. (Photo by Staff Sgt. Valerie Smith)

Imagine a military career spanning forty-seven years with no indications it will stop anytime soon. Imagine, in that career, moving twenty-three times. Sure, those moves might consist of rotating between a few different bases, but with new faces and new missions, heading back to a familiar assignment doesn't guarantee it will seem like home.

One new member of the 100th Air Refueling Wing hadn't even arrived before the buzz started about its return. KC-135R 58-0100 hasn't been assigned to RAF Mildenhall since the 100th ARW stood up in 1992, but in a ceremony on 4 January, was welcomed back as the wing's 'flagship' aircraft. "It's typical for aircraft to rotate among bases", said Master Sgt. Roger Dilcher, 100th Maintenance Operations Squadron. Because the KC-135 is on a five-year program depot maintenance schedule, in an average year at RAF Mildenhall, three 'tails' will be swapped out. However, it's not characteristic to hold a ceremony when the base gains a new member to its fifteen-aircraft fleet - the significance for this aircraft, which was originally accepted into the Air Force inventory in 1959, is its tail number. Since aircraft are known to those who maintain and fly them by the last three numbers on its tail, the 100th ARW was anxious to welcome this aircraft back.

"It's not very often that aircraft with the same serial number as the wing designation marry up with each other - and that is what makes 58-0100 so special. We welcome aircraft 0100 back to the 100th ARW", said Colonel Michael Saville, 100th Maintenance Group commander. Aircraft arrive at their new assignments and go through an 'intro' program not very different to the one new Airmen experience. After '100' was refurbished at its previous assignment at Fairchild Air Force Base, Washington, it went into a five-day acceptance inspection. This inspection consists of a 'nose-to-tail' look through to see what it needed. Shortly after the acceptance inspection, which includes painting the tail flash, the aircraft goes into the flying rotation.
This particular aircraft had been out of depot maintenance for about a year and according to Sergeant Dilcher, had been "flown hard" at its last assignment.

"Gaining new aircraft can present challenges to the maintainers", Sergeant Dilcher said. Much like cars and people, aircraft also have individual quirks. "It can take time for crew chiefs to learn how best to deal with those quirks - Crew chiefs have a relationship with their 'tails,'" Sergeant Dilcher said. "It can take a bit, but they get to know everything about that aircraft."

While changing a fifth of the fleet each year might not be so noticeable, RAF Mildenhall is currently undergoing an unusual changeover rate because of an upgrade to the KC-135. The Global Air Traffic Management System, or GATM, will necessitate a complete swap out of the fifteen assigned aircraft in just eighteen months, Sergeant Dilcher said. The upgrade also presents challenges, particularly with specialists who now must work with a new system and possible problems they've not seen before. Additionally, aircrew must be trained to fly the plane with the upgrade. "Before, we've gotten tails in and gotten them painted and it's been almost transparent," said Sergeant Dilcher, who works with the flying schedule, making sure there are planes available and crews who have been trained to fly them. "This year, it's apparent because we have a new system we're scheduling around. We have eight GATM aircraft and seven non-GATM. We have to make sure the aircraft and aircrew can work together." The wing's goal is to have all of the aircrew trained on the new system by the end of February, with the aircraft swap out finished in December. With the five-year schedule, the wing's flagship aircraft should be around for a while. Courtesy 100th ARW PA


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