FLIGHT DEPT OF THE YEAR
America’s 89th AW—best of the best
US Air Force’s SAM FOX carries ranking leaders using mixed fleet of 18 Boeing and Gulfstream aircraft.
Gulfstreams on the go
Now on her 2nd tour with 99 AS, Flight Attendant Tech Sgt Allison Miller is standardization flight attendant for the 89 OG.
99 AS Commander (CC) Lt Col Preston Williamson joined the US Air Force in Jun 1991 and has 4200 hrs TT (all fixed-wing). He came to 99 AS in Jun 2005 from Air Command Staff College, and previously flew KC10s with 60 AW at SUU (Travis AFB, Fairfield CA).
Williamson served as 99 AS dir of operations (DO) before becoming commander in Sep 2008, at which point a 2-year commander assignment was added to his tour.(Leadership appointments are selective-hires, and it is typical for a DO to gain experience before being made up to CC.)
Even with stan/eval, training and administration functions all reporting to Williamson—in the form of some 20 executive officers (XOs), flight chiefs and other officers—he flies 2 or 3 missions a month.
He reports no problem meeting the currency requirement of 1 flight (takeoff, approach and landing) per month. Demand always exceeds capacity, notes Williamson. The issue of aircraft availability has led to the use of sims for training where possible, although some training takes place during missions.
DO Lt Col Chris Thompson graduated from the Air Force Academy in May 1993, served with 99 AS from 2003–05 as a senior captain, gained additional professional education and rejoined the unit in Feb 2009. He has 3850 hrs TT (all fixed-wing). As DO, Thompson is responsible for flying ops, and his tasks revolve around quality control.
He ensures that all crewmembers aboard the Gulfstreams are properly trained and qualified to fly the mission, and that training programs are run properly. Thompson is also responsible for ensuring crewmembers’ currency for instrument landings and night flying and for making certain that they have the necessary shots for overseas travel.
In addition, he ensures that issues such as waivers and approvals are resolved, and cross-checks with schedulers and SOC before signing off on a mission. Both Thompson and Williamson are instructor pilots. They chair a monthly training review panel which assesses a pilot’s suitability for upgrade or an instructor pilot recommendation.
This is “an important part of our duties.” As Gulfstream Instructor Pilot Lt Col Jeff Anderson notes, each squadron has 6 standardization/evaluation (stan/eval) pilots, who conduct around 160 check rides a year. C20 and C37 pilots get a no-notice operational evaluation (op eval) every year.
CSOs and equipment
Staff Sgt Aron Grossnicklaus is a CSO. He has been in the Air Force for 6 1/2 years and joined 99 AS in Jun 2008 after flying as a CST on Boeing E4Bs with 55 WG at OFF (Offutt AFB, Omaha NE).
Grossnicklaus is qualified in all the Gulfstream aircraft. While he flies probably 10–15 missions a month, the rate varies widely, and single-type-qualified CSOs may fly only 6 missions in a month.
His job, and that of other CSOs, is “to ensure that DVs or foreign dignitaries have all the communications they have at their office while they’re in the air.” In flight, while CSOs may obtain weather reports and talk to FBOs, “maintaining and operating all the equipment is a high priority.”
Grossnicklaus lists some of the unclassified equipment aboard the C37. This includes 2 HF radios (for long-range communication), VHF/ UHF radio (for line-of-sight communication), satcom military secure system (for use by high-value pax, eg, the Vice President), civilian-based Inmarsat (worldwide phone), Internet via Inmarsat, nonsecure Internet protocol router network (NIPRnet) and secure Internet protocol router network (SIPRnet).
A local area network (LAN) for top secret communications (Highside) is in the future.
On the Boeing side
1 AS CC David Siegrist graduated from the US Air Force Academy in 1991 and started his tour with 1 AS in Jun 2007.
A 4200-hr TT pilot, he previously flew KC135s and C17s. Siegrist runs the squadron with DO Lt Col Timrek Heisler, who graduated from the Air Force Academy in 1992 and began his tour with 1 AS in Aug 2008.
Like other CSOs, Staff Sgt Aron Grossnicklaus ensures that DVs have all the com- munications they would expect to have in their office while they are in the air.
Heisler has 4500 hrs TT (all fixed-wing) and is C40 qualified. In keeping with normal practice, Siegrist was squadron DO before becoming commander, and Heisler will follow in his footsteps. Most 1 AS pilots average around 25 hours per month, says Heisler.
“‘This may not seem much compared with civilian pilots,” he notes, “but my pilots are heavily involved in the planning of all missions.” All squadron pilots are single-type qualified in either the C32A or the C40B, while more than half of all flight attendants and CSOs are dual qualified.
They also fly frequently because of higher demand for their services (and lower supply) and their participation in Special Air Program (SAP) missions aboard C17s/KC10s. Heisler notes that all missions are tracked and analyzed in what amounts to a constant feedback executive loop to ensure that they are executed appropriately.
And, he adds, “Our senior leadership has given us great latitude to search for ways to improve constantly.” Senior Master Sgt Joe Cousins is a CSO with 1 AS. He joined the Air Force in Mar 1989 and began his tour with 1 AS in Jan 2009 after serving as a CST on Boeing E8Cs with 116 ACW at WRB (Robins AFB, Warner Robins GA).
Cousins flies as a CSO aboard the C32As and C40Bs, where he operates and maintains onboard communications. There is some built-in redundancy in the suite of communications equipment carried on the C32As and C40Bs, says Cousins.
Nonclassified equipment includes HF radios, UHF/VHF radios, satcom, secure and nonsecure connections, terrestrial aeronautical radiotelephone system (TARS), Inmarsat, Boeing proprietary data connection, NIPRNet and SIPRNet.
The C40Bs also have voice over Internet protocol (VoIP) phones and crisis management software (CMS).