Thursday, April 10, 2008

Afstan: C-17 going "tactical"

Fairly hairy flying:
ABOARD CANFORCE 99 - The lights of a lonely village twinkled below as Maj. Tim Burke manoeuvred the giant, camouflaged C-17 Globemaster into position for a spine-tingling, rapid descent into Kandahar Airfield with a 43,000-kilogram load of ammo, mail, medical supplies, computers and paper cups for Canadian troops fighting the Taliban in southern Afghanistan.

For Burke, 44, commanding Canada's newest, biggest and most expensive aircraft was the culmination of a 25-year military career spent flying tiny Challenger executive jets, second-hand Polaris Airbus 310s and venerable C-130 Hercules that were often nearly as old as he is.

Capt. Rob Doucette was living the dream too.

The Cape Bretoner was what the air force calls a Pipeliner. A graduate of the Royal Military College and fresh out of flying school, the first job the air force gave him was in the left seat of the cockpit of an aircraft worth somewhere around $200-million.

"This is exactly what we needed because it takes large cargoes efficiently over great distances," said Burke, 27, who like all the pilots, loadmasters and technicians on the C-17 was attached to 429 Squadron in Trenton, Ont [429 Squadron was merged with 436 Squadron in 2005 and then reactivated in 2007 to operate the Globemaster IIIs].

"Flying into Afghanistan is very different than the usual strategic airlift. This is tactical flying. We are more stressed out, but it is challenging and rewarding."

To prepare to fly C-17s, Burke spent several months attached to the U.S. air force. His "seasoning" included three flights into Iraq.

"Because it is a highly complicated computer-driven aircraft, it takes a little more time to learn to spin all the dials," the Windsor, Ont., native said. "But it is easy to fly manually and is very stable even at low level."

Although it has a wingspan of more than 50 metres and is more than 50 metres long, the Globemaster can operate from short dirt strips. It can carry four to five times as much cargo as a C-130, depending upon how the aircraft was configured. In fact, the back ramp could carry as much weight as an entire C-130 payload.

"It is quite amazing to see the capabilities of a jet this size - such as landing on runways that are only 90 feet across," Doucette said. "It means we can get into some very austere locations."

Canada took delivery last week of the fourth and last C-17 it ordered only 14 months ago from Boeing in Long Beach, Calif...
Really hairy tactical flying here (thanks to the C-17s) and here.


Blogger Gilles said...

"tactical" ?
Kandahar has:
a 10,000 foot asphalt runway
Approach lights
A Visual approach slope indicator
An Instrument landing system
Radar Approach control
A control tower
An airport crash and fire service
An ambulance service

If landing in Kandahar is "tactical", than landing at Pearson Airport in Toronto is also. Calling this "tactical" flying is an insult to those who do the real tactical flying.
Maybe the C-17 had the landing lights turned off this time also. That would qualify it as a "tactical" landing.

10:53 a.m., April 18, 2008  

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