5th Maint. Co. recovers aircraft, gets Bagram airfield operational
March 25, 2010
BAGRAM AIRFIELD, Afghanistan - Eight Soldiers from 5th Maintenance Company, 18th Combat Sustainment Support Battalion, 16th Sustainment Brigade, towed a disabled Airbus 300 aircraft off the Bagram Airfield flight line earlier this month to assist in restoring full flight operations to the airfield.
"I was excited to be able to recover something that large and in that condition. My attitude toward any mission is that it can be done; it's just a matter of how," said Chief Warrant Officer 2 Troy Ricketts, an allied trades officer for 5th Maint. Co. "That's why I was so eager to get a shot at this aircraft. I knew my team was up for the challenge."
During the plane's final approach it experienced a landing gear malfunction. The plane skidded into a ditch and partially blocked the main taxiway of the airfield. This blockage degraded the flight operations to the point where only small aircraft could use the airfield.
After a 30minute mobilization and vehicle staging, the 5th Maint. Co. recovery team observed the Air Force onsite crew make an unsuccessful attempt to drag the Airbus 300 from the flight line.
Ricketts and 1st Lt. Anthony Catalano used the observation time to formulate an extraction plan of their own. They decided it would take more than one vehicle to extract such a large aircraft. The recovery team used three wreckers and a tractor trailer truck to drag the airbus from the ditch.
"It was actually the best night for this mission because the rain made the ground soft enough for the wheels to move smoothly," said Sgt. Steven Garn, a native of Philadelphia and a ground support recovery team sergeant for the 5th Maint. Co.
The wreckers were used to walk the aircraft into position by winching one side at a time until the aircraft was on stable ground to winch simultaneously. They winched the aircraft from three to five feet with each pull. They stopped after each iteration to recheck the winch rigging for breaks or safety issues. When the aircraft started to move to the left side, the crew stopped winching and began to pull on the right side of the plane to continue the process. Within six hours, the 5th Maint. Co. team was able to move the disabled plane to the exact spot the flight line Air Force recovery crew desired.
"With the success of this mission, we made a huge impact on Bagram's mission by clearing the debris and freeing up two runways that were blocked," said Sgt. Douglas Mitchell, a native of Camden, Ark., who works as a machinist for the 5th Maint. Co.
"I was really impressed at how fast CW2 Ricketts and the Soldiers used their experience to quickly and safely recover the airbus. They have never done anything like it before and almost immediately began devising a strategy to get the plane out of there," said Capt. Katherine Baker, a native of Littleton, Colo., and commander of the 5th Maint. Co. "It was a great experience watching them work, and getting the job done. I am sure we will be called upon again for challenging missions like this."
"I am extremely proud of my team for what they accomplished and for the impact the recovery had on the larger mission here in Operation Enduring Freedom as a whole," said Ricketts.