128th ARW Hosts Media Engagement Event

  • Published
  • By Staff Sgt. Jenna V. Hildebrand
  • 128th Air Refueling Wing
The 128th Air Refueling Wing, Wisconsin Air National Guard, hosted a media engagement event for members of the local media to experience the Boeing KC-135R flight simulator, to observe the maintenance phase, and to talk to subject matter experts of the operation of the KC-135R here June 28, 2013.

Representatives from the Milwaukee area TV news stations CBS 58, FOX 6, TMJ 4, and WISN 12 attended the event where they toured the isochronal inspection dock where a disassembled aircraft was being inspected and experienced the flight simulator with Maj. Todd Walton and Maj. Adam Uhan, both pilots with the 128 ARW.

The goal of the event was to raise public awareness of the extent of training the aircrew goes through to operate the aircraft and to gain the knowledge and ability to handle hazardous situations while operating it. Another goal of the media engagement was to showcase the meticulous level of detail and extensive experience that the maintenance personnel use to inspect and maintain the fleet of aircraft.

The 128 ARW reported four in-flight emergencies in the past three months that received media attention. At the event Capt. John Capra, a public affairs officer with the 128 ARW, explained to the media that the IFEs were non-critical situations that resulted from abnormalities while flying the aircraft.

There are two types of in-flight emergencies according to U.S. Air Force technical data: critical, which requires immediate attention and action, and non-critical, in which abnormalities that occur require immediate attention, but not necessarily immediate action.

"These malfunctions normally do not necessarily pose an immediate threat to the safety of the crew or airplane, but may impact mission accomplishment or lead to a more serious situation if not properly handled," said Capra in regard to the four non-critical in-flight emergencies.

The four non-critical in-flight emergencies were due to condensation in the cockpit, low oil pressure indicator light, irregular engine fuel flow, and a hydraulic quantity gauge abnormality. All of the situations required the aircrews to take precautionary measures such as shutting down an engine, returning to the airfield, or diverting from the flight plan for maintenance.

"One in-flight emergency is too many, so we take it very serious," said Capra. "Of course having four in-flight emergencies within a short period of time is concerning to us. But upon review, after we look at all the data, they are all unrelated so there's nothing that would indicate there's a trend going in any specific direction. The fact that they're all non-critical; the fact that they're all sensory related and nothing that would have endangered the safety of the aircraft or the crew, it's comforting to know that they took the right approach," he added.

The flight simulator assigned to the 128 ARW, which is one of three KC-135 simulators in the Air National Guard owned by the U.S. Air Force, is an asset that attracts aircrews throughout the region to simulate and practice for problems that could arise while flying in order to proficiently train for real-world situations. Training in the simulator is also an alternative for the 128 ARW to save money and flying hours. It costs about 25 percent of the cost to fly in the simulator than in an actual aircraft. Over 1,000 pilots from the 128 ARW and from various units around the nation trained in the flight simulator for a total of 2,379 hours.

During the flight simulator sessions, the pilots demonstrated a virtually real non-critical in-flight emergency. The pilots talked them through how they would handle the situation and then returned to the airfield and landed the virtual aircraft.

The media guests were then escorted to the inspection dock where experienced maintenance technicians were actively working the one of the KC-135Rs. They visited different work stations on and around the aircraft where the technicians explained their inspection processes and the regular maintenance they do to each part of the aircraft.

"When you look at the aircraft and you look at the amount of hours and number of years, you've got an incredibly safe and reliable platform that's not just good for today and the past 50 years, but in the near future as well," said Capra.