By Airman 1st Class C. Todd Lopez
DOVER AIR FORCE BASE, Del. (Feb. 05, 1999) -- The Eagle Wing's ability to quickly respond to emergency situations was put to the test Saturday.
The action unfolded when one of Dover Air Force Base's C-5 Galaxy aircraft, with a crew from the 3rd Airlift Squadron, and flying a routine training mission, alerted the Command Post their landing gear was not functioning properly, and declared an in-flight emergency.
"We started out with two landing gear problems, actually," said Senior Master Sgt. Timothy Reuning, a C-5 Galaxy systems expert with the 436th Airlift Wing Standards and Evaluation Squadron, and a key player in the assembled Battle Staff which helped troubleshoot the problem.
"Initially when the air crew tried to retract the gear, one of the left main landing gear remained in transit, which means it is neither up nor down. The flight manual calls for the flight engineer to go down and look at the gear itself through an inspection port," said Reuning. "What the flight engineer looks for is mechanical damage, and there was no sign of mechanical damage. At the same time, one of the right landing gear did not indicate down and locked."
According to Reuning, the aircraft would have been severely damaged had it attempted to land with its landing gear problems.
"The gears were perpendicular to the runway," said Reuning. "The worse-case scenario would have been to rip that wheel assembly off, and the plane would have lost braking and broke its hydraulic lines."
While the lives of the fight crew were not in danger, according to Col. Felix M. Grieder, 436th Airlift Wing commander, the performance of everyone involved shows that the Eagle Wing is primed for any situation that comes along.
When the commend post was informed of the situation, Grieder decided to activate the wing's Baffle Staff. The Battle Staff is made up from wing staff agency representatives and group commanders; to include 512th Airlift Wing representatives if needed. It's purpose is to direct wing emergency response actions.
"In this case, based on the situation, I decided it was serious enough to warrant Battle Staff activation. I asked for the group commanders to come in, as well as representatives from Public Affairs and Wing Safety. We got together on short notice Saturday morning," said Grieder.
The Battle Staff gathered at the Command Post and began looking for solutions to deal with the problem. Fortunately, one of the problems had already been solved. The flight crew was able to fix the problem with the right aft main landing gear before the Baffle Staff had actually assembled.
"The fix was non-standard, it wasn't in the book," said Reuning. "The crew came up with a work around procedure and asked me if it made sense. We reviewed the landing gear schematic and decided to give it a try and that fixed the problem."
While the problem with the right aft main landing gear had been corrected, the left aft main landing gear remained an issue to be solved before the plane could land. In order to correct the landing gear failure, the Battle Staff contacted several sources via conference call to discuss possible solutions to the problem.
"We got with Lockheed, the manufacturer of the C-5 and with Kelly AFB, which is the depot. We got two engineers on the phone and again reviewed what had already taken place and what steps the crew had already taken. They got out their electrical, hydraulic and mechanical schematics and reviewed those," said Reuning.
Meanwhile, the C-5 continued to circle the base, making several passes so wing emergency personnel could visually inspect the landing gear.
"Keeping the plane airborne, to burn off excess fuel is standard procedure for an aircraft experiencing an in-flight emergency," said Lt. Col. Mark Juscius, 436th Airlift Wing Safety chief. "In this case it was the right thing to do, to reduce the weight of the aircraft and minimize damage to the airframe if it was forced to land with its damaged landing gear."
After nearly five hours of constant communication between Lockheed, the flight crew, members of the Battle Staff and Kelly AFB, a solution to the problem was found, and the left aft main landing gear was returned to its correct position so the C-5 could land safely.
"The air crew depressurized the hydraulic system for the landing gear and the auxiliary power unit start accumulator and then repressurized the systems," said Reuning. "Shortly after- wards, the gear extended normally."
The swift actions of the air crew, Battle Staff and wing emergency personnel in the face of unusual circumstances impressed the Eagle Wing commander.
"The team troubleshot this and went through the emergency procedures just as they were trained to do, proving they are ready for any situation that may occur. They came up with an innovative solution which led to a success in getting the landing gear down," said Grieder. "I am very impressed with the performance of all those involved, their ability to work together, and their ability to problem solve. Situations like this show the Eagle Wing is ready to respond to any given situation."