FORT BRAGG, N.C. (USASOC News Service, Mar. 19, 2014) -- The United States Army Special Operations Command Flight Company (UFC) held an open house yesterday to unveil their new C-27J aircraft. The UFC is the only unit in the Army to have C-27Js, which will replace their aging fleet of CASA-212s.
Representatives from across USASOC were present to hear about the capabilities and fielding of the C-27J, as well as the facilities plan to house the aircraft. Chief Warrant Officer 5 Curtis Adams, the UFC company commander, said they held the open house for several reasons.
"The audience, the customers, are the stakeholders. They had to give up part of their budget for this capability. It's important they understand what it brings. Also, as we start to work with this new aircraft, there are differences in the way we will conduct business."
Brig. Gen. Clayton M. Hutmacher, USASOAC commanding general, reiterated this in his opening remarks. "This is a USASOC aircraft. It is available to support all USASOC units."
Adams said that, "over the years, the personnel in the UFC have figured out how to gain the maximum amount of effectiveness and efficiency out of the CASA-212. I look forward to doing that with the C-27J, as we learn the capabilities and how we can best support."
Billy Johnson, USASOAC G3 aviation standards officer, is one of the first USAOAC personnel getting trained to fly the new C-27Js. "It's very different from the CASA," he explained. "Very detailed. It's a flying computer. More capabilities. We have to learn those and work them into what we do every day."
The first pilot training class consists of two active duty Soldiers, and two Department of the Army Civilians, all standards instructor pilots. According to Chief Warrant Officer 5 James Lindsay, that is because "we are not only the first students getting qualified in this aircraft, but we're also validating the plan of instruction (POI), making adjustments for future classes, working on our aircrew training manual, and developing unit Standard Operations Procedures (SOPs)."
"It is equal parts a real privilege to get to fly this, but also a big task to get this program up and running," explained Lindsay. "It is also equal parts exciting and terrifying. We need the program to succeed, there are a lot of risks are involved."
One person present at the open house who was instrumental in bringing the C-27Js to the UFC was Tom Brew, the USASOAC G8 project manager for non-standard aviation. "This is a decade in the making from when we originally identified the need," he said. "From initially getting our requirements recognized by the Army, through the years of the aircraft going to the Air Force, and then the long fight to revalidate our requirements to get the aircraft and meet our mission."
Before attendees were given the opportunity to tour the new aircraft and ask questions of the crew, Adams shared some lessons learned from the first airborne operations, conducted only weeks earlier. "One of the most important observations from the initial static line jumps is that a strong exit is required. With undisturbed high-velocity airflow (no deflector), a strong exit is necessary."
Already, the C-27Js are an asset to the USASOC community. "Right off the bat, we can more than double our jumper load," said Adams. "And they will pay dividends in the long run, as the costs to maintain the aging CASAs are more than what it takes to operate the C-27Js."