By Jennifer L. King, Public Affairs OfficerMarch 12, 2009
SECKENHEIM, Germany - The Theater Aviation Sustainment Manager - Europe is meeting the challenge of an increased operational demand with dedication, perseverance and a commitment to the mission.
The organization is supporting multiple units simultaneously through its equipment reset program, taking the units' aircraft and performing extensive maintenance on them to make sure each unit has the best possible equipment available for use. The 12th Combat Aviation Brigade, the 3-158th Assault Battalion, the 5-158th General Support Aviation Battalion and the C/1-214th Medical Evacuation unit all have aircraft at the TASM-E, resulting in an increased workload for the organization.
"It's an incredibly demanding time for our organization," explained Lt. Col. Tildon "Kye" Allen, commander of the TASM-E. "In order to meet our operational requirements and our mission deadline, which is the end of August, we must conduct operations seven days a week. Consequently, we are flying aircraft one to five times daily to ensure that the aircraft meet all maintenance standards."
Flying military aircraft isn't as easy as it sounds. In addition to needing certified and capable pilots, the organization must also follow strict guidelines from the German government when flying. The Militarisches Luftfahrthandbuch Deutschland (Military Aeronautical Information Publication Germany), which is provided by the German government, specifically outlines the rules and procedures regarding military aircraft flights within Germany.
"We have various regulations to which we have to adhere, both American and German," said Rex Mercier, a DynCorp test pilot who works for the TASM-E. "Both the German and American military require that we fly at a minimum of 500 feet, and the German civilian requirements mandate that we be at least 1,000 feet below the clouds. However, as a pilot, I like to fly as high as possible just because that is more comfortable for me."
In addition to height requirements, there are also visibility requirements for military aircraft flights.
"The German civilian requirement states that we must have a minimum of eight kilometers of visibility to fly military aircraft," Mercier added. "Even though the U.S. Army requirement is only 1,600 meters of visibility, we must also meet the German requirements, which we do on every flight that we execute."
The flight restrictions add an additional dimension to the challenges of executing the reset mission.
"We must have a certain kind of weather in order to fly the aircraft so that we don't violate any of the airspace restrictions," Allen stated. "Therefore, we can only fly under certain weather conditions, and with the heavy amounts of rain we've been having lately, sometimes we have to fly multiple flights in one day to make up for days when we can't fly at all due to the weather conditions."
In addition to optimal weather conditions, the flights are also restricted to certain areas of German airspace. For the TASM-E operations, the flight path includes the airspace above Coleman Barracks and the cities of Petersau to Frankethal. Essentially, the flight area covers the airspace from Gruenstadt to Neustadt an der Weinstrasse west of Autobahn 61. By German law, the pilots cannot deviate from the flight path established in coordination with the German government.
"We simply could not execute our mission without the cooperation and support of our German Allies," Allen emphasized. "We realize that many of our host nation friends are inconvenienced by the flights, and the U.S. Army is grateful for all of their assistance."