SPECIAL UNIT PROFILE
ANG 201st Airlift Sqn flies the flag
Elite unit uses Boeing BBJs to provide members of Congress, military leaders and senior US officials with global reach.
Maintenance Commander Maj James Nasman, Aircraft Work Leader MSgt Kevin Armstrong, Aircraft Mechanic Sgt Steven Bishop and TSgt Darius Green with a C38.
He relates that discussions of a possible collaboration with Rockwell Collins and Boeing led ultimately to a trial installation on C40 serial 02-0201. With 201 AS and Boeing pilots working together, the squadron was given responsibility for flight testing and certification.
Testing began in Jan 2009 using a 3-sensor set-up—UV/visible/IR—but the evaluation team eventually selected the CMC CMA2600 EVS sensor. The EVS is fully integrated in the HGS4000 head-up guidance system, with a lower screen providing video capability for the copilot.
Flight tests for FAA certification began in Jan 2010, says O'Brien. Flight testing included some 6 weeks of flying in specific harsh weather conditions to ensure that the system met FAA requirements. The EVS STC was signed off in early Oct 2010.
All installations and completions were carried out at ADW by 201AS maintainers and the Boeing AOG team. Work was completed on aircraft 02-0202 on Jun 11 this year and on 02-0203 a week later.
The program was "a win-win for a civilian/military partnership," says Pisani. Boeing and Rockwell Collins were awarded the STC, and the government got the benefit of having the system. It's a COTS-like arrangement, although the military term is "commercial derivatives."
Like all USAF C40s, the 201st's C40s are equipped with large aircraft infrared countermeasures (LAIRCM)—an active (automatic) system that defeats an enemy missile guidance system by directing a high-intensity modulated laser beam into the missile seeker.
DVs are informed in advance of the risks that a mission might experience as well as what mitigation measures are in place. Normal procedure, says Campbell, is to land in daylight as part of a "drop-and-reposition."
Flight Attendant Supervisor SMSgt Vondella Stevens-Maynard (L) with TSgt Shannon McNamara in the flight kitchen.
Maintenance Commander Maj Jim Nasman has been with the unit for 2 years. He was formerly on active duty with the US Navy (VAQ141). All maintainers (87 full-time and 9 "traditional" Guardsmen) report to him.
Squadron maintainers work 2 shifts. This is unique in the Guard, says Nasman, but customer missions demand this arrangement.
Nasman explains that most maintenance is carried out on base, with military personnel ("blueshirts") doing all work on the C38s, including "C" checks and heavy maintenance. HTA Aviation at AFW (Alliance, Fort Worth TX) has been the contractor logistics support (CLS) provider on the C38 program since 2003. Honeywell (Garrett) does heavy maintenance on the C38s' TFE731s, while 201 AS performs all major work on the C40s' CFM56-7s internally.
When it comes to C40 maintenance, Boeing IAB (McConnell AFB, Wichita KS) carries out "C" checks, but most other work is carried out on base. Nasman calls Boeing "very reliable."
Nasman holds a Lean Six Sigma Black Belt in recognition of his expertise in engineering quality control, but he gives credit where it's due. "This unit is probably the best I've ever worked with," he says. "There's a sense of family here. And we have the best senior NCOs I've ever seen—they make my job very, very easy. I couldn't be happier."
In FY2010, the aircraft of 201 AS flew a total of 2444.4 hrs in 796 sorties. C40 missions accounted for 1643.7 hrs and 443 sorties. Mission capability rates are widely different, with the C40s currently (FY2011 so far) achieving almost 95%. C38 dispatch reliability was below 50% for several months in early 2010, but a decision to switch CLS support to Precision Turbine Inc (PTI) raised reliability rates to 77% for Jun 2011.
The C38 has no galley and cannot carry a flight attendant, and range limitations mean that it can only perform CONUS missions with military leadership. And, although NGB recognizes the need for a C38 replacement that meets mission requirements, the bureau faces huge budget issues.
Around the world in 54 hrs
Lt Col Rob Balzano was the mission flight commander on a recent (Jun 4–13) westbound around-the-world CODEL trip. The objective was "to transport Congressmen around the world to do their business" and to do so safely, comfortably and reliably.
Carrying 6 members of Congress from the House Foreign Affairs Committee, the C40 was crewed by 4 pilots (inc Balzano), 5 flight attendants, 2 flying crew chiefs (maintainers) and 4 "Ravens" (security detail). Ravens stay with the aircraft at all times and, at certain locations, secure it. In order not to draw unwelcome attention, crewmembers wear civilian business suits rather than uniforms or fatigues, and flight attendants wear airline-type uniforms.
A combination of late nights and minimal ground time, challenging locations, time zone issues, dealing with ATC, language barriers and, at times, limited visibility made this a "challenging" trip. At the end of the 10-day trip the C40 had flown 53.6 flight hrs and covered 21,384 nm.
Routing was as follows. ADW–SUU (Travis AFB, Fairfield CA) (fuel stop)–HNL (Honolulu, Oahu HI) (15-hr crew rest)–UAM (Andersen AFB, Guam) (fuel stop)–MNL (Manila, Philippines) (3-day business stop)–DVO (Davao City, Mindanao, Philippines) (pax drop)–MLE (Male, Maldives) (fuel stop)–DOH (Doha, Qatar) (1-day business stop)–OKAS (Ali Al Salem AB, Kuwait) (1-day business stop)–IST (Atatürk, Istanbul, Turkey) (2-day business stop during national elections)–SNN (Shannon, Ireland) (fuel stop)–ADW. Total fuel burn was 269,000 lb.
The itinerary for this mission was finalized 10 days before departure, says Balzano. Mission Ops, which serves the dispatch function, coordinated with United Airlines to lay the groundwork, which included arranging fuel and hotels. (US embassies overseas vet and book hotels as a part of due diligence.)
The lead flight attendant coordinated with legislative liaison and organized meal requests. All necessary shopping was done before departure—201 AS practices self-contained provisioning—and the only things picked up enroute were ice and dry ice.
"This is the best flying assignment in all of DoD," says Coleman. "We get to fly interesting people and travel all over the world." Vacancies are announced through "the usual channels"—USA Jobs, website, GoANG. While squadron staffing is relatively stable and recruitment is low, Coleman says 201 AS hires a handful of pilots and flight attendants every year or so.
The squadron prefers men and women with current or prior military experience. A selection board looks at résumés, takes into account interpersonal skills and makes its recommendations. The colonel makes the final decision.
"We look for smart, sharp, polished people," says Coleman. "We need someone the National Guard can be comfortable putting before the First Lady, the Speaker of the House and other DVs."
In effect, as Andriuk puts it, the men, women and aircraft of the 201st constitute "a diplomacy enabler."
Several leadership changes have taken place since this article was penned. As of Sep 8, Colonel (select) Sherrie McCandless assumed command of 201 AS. She has over 2000 hrs in the F16 and Northrop T38 and brings a wealth of experience to the wing as a former leader in the National Guard Bureau and Congressional Legislative Liaison offices.
Lt Col Louis Campbell is now director of operations, while Lt Col Ralph "Butch" Pisani is currently with NGB. C40 Evaluator Pilot Lt Col Mike Teigen has taken over as assistant director of operations. Teigen has over 4700 hrs in the Boeing 707 and 737, Boeing E3 and Gulfstream C20 and C37.