Greetings from the flight line here at Pope Army Airfield. The Aviation Detachment continues supporting the absolute best paratroopers in the world. We have two air shows under our belt for the 2014 season having recently completed the show at Travis Air Force Base, CA, and returning today from Lakehurst, NJ. Of course we continue supporting local demonstrations and outreach projects to further connect the American People with America’s Army.
Many members of the public fly on commercial and public use aircraft but rarely have the opportunity to look at the maintenance that goes into keeping the fleet in top notch condition.
This week we decided to snap a few pictures of the maintenance checks being performed on the C-31 Fokker, tail number 607 affectionately known as “Excalibur”.
Both C-31 aircraft operated by the United States Army Parachute Team were acquired in 1985 and are pushing 30 years of service. Both aircraft have in excess of 14,500 hours of total use thus far and over 15,000 landings. These aircraft have a life span limited to 90,000 landings, and although they are technically in their infancy with regards to their service life, the rapid retirement of F27 from commercial use worldwide make the supply chain for spare parts a limited resource. With 15,000 landings thus far, inspection of the landing gear system is a continuing process that we trust to our maintenance partners of Kay and Associates. Below is a picture of the left side of the aircraft with the jack stand fully supporting a third of the total weight of around 28,000 pounds.
Placing an aircraft on jacks requires maintenance professionals who are experts in the procedures. Kay and Associates, as the team contract maintainers have a team of experts who have worked on this aircraft since it arrived at the team in 1985. Testing the landing gear is a routine procedure for these professionals but the same level of attention to the procedure is given each and every time. In the picture below, one mechanic observes cockpit indications while two additional mechanics check and recheck systems before the landing gear is brought to the up position during testing.
Excalibur gets new shoes and a close inspection of the nose gear.
Typically, the aircraft weighs in excess of 42,000 pounds when fully loaded and departing for an air show. While taxing, pilots use a small wheel located near each pilots knee that functions much like a car steering wheel. Prior to take off, the crew unlocks the flight controls and the copilot maintains control of the yoke and the pilot flying steers the airplane down the runway using a combination of rudder and the nose wheel steering. At 60 knots of airspeed, the pilot flying takes control of the aircraft from the copilot effecting a smooth transition from the runway to powered flight. Flying the Fokker is a delicate balance of technique and crew coordination.
All aircraft are maintained according to factory specifications. The US Army Parachute Team operates the only C-31 (Fokker F27) aircraft in the United States. Aircraft of this type and design were used for many years by FedEx, Piedmont Airlines, and others as reliable commuter and freight carrying aircraft.
Members of the Black Demonstration Team Exiting the Team C31 Friendship Fokker
The Black Demonstration Team arrived on Joint Base Mcguire-Dix-Lakehurst, NJ this weekend for the second air show of the season. The team was invited to attend the Joint Base social on the first day and received a warm air show welcome from all of the air show sponsors. Amongst some of the guests at the social included base commander Colonel John Wood of the 87th ABW. The team met with several air show sponsors and dignitaries from around Joint Base Mcguire-Dix- Lakehurst. They were all just as excited to see our performances and we were more than ready to get back in the sky!
We were up early Friday morning ready to put on our mass performance for all of the media and DOD ID card holders. However, Mother Nature did not play in our favor and the show was cancelled. Inclement weather does not stop the Golden Knights from providing their spectators/fans with the best part of their show and that is the one on one interaction through high fives, handshakes and autographs. And we did just that at the Army Recruiting display located directly behind show center.
Signs of inclement weather were forecasted for the following day at Joint Base Mcguire-Dix-Lakehurst as we still maintained our focus and determination to have the opportunity to connect the US Army to the American public through our precision free fall maneuvers and canopy skills. The skies slowly opened up for us that morning just in time for our first mass performance. Although landing on target is one of the many signature landings of every Golden Knight, each jumper was able to pick a spot to land along the show line to truly personalize the performance for the air show spectators.
Our last performance of the weekend included both a mass and a full show. This was the team’s first opportunity to perform their first full show of the air show season. Eight press riders accompanied us on our climb to 12,500 feet. The excitement for what they were about to experience on board our C31 was infectious. High fives, smiles and a few fist bumps were exchanged with our press riders prior to each maneuver was so exiting. All four full show maneuvers were highlighted to include the baton pass, cutaway, diamond track and diamond formation. What a way to close out the weekend!
Black Team is home for the week and is looking forward to completing more training in preparation for their first local show at the Fayetteville Veterans Park this Saturday.
Black Team Flying High Over Travis AFB
The Black demonstration team led by SFC Kevin Presgraves traveled to Travis Air Force Base, CA for the Thunder Over Solano Air Show this past weekend. The team began making their impressions within the Fairfield community upon landing and paid a visit to a local high school. We had the honor of speaking with the Air Force JROTC class at Fairfield High School along with the local Army recruiters.
The team was set to make three performances this past weekend and kicked off the air show with our first mass performance show of the air show season on Friday. The team then attended the wonderful air show sponsored social. We had the opportunity to meet all of the air show performers and received a warm welcome from Travis Air Force Base. Unfortunately, we were not able to put on our full show performance on Saturday due to high winds. The team was still able to give the spectators a full team lineup introduction while Team Six made three low altitude passes over show center.
As Golden Knights, we are not only known for our precision free fall and canopy skills, but for the ability we have to interact with the American public. Since our designation as the official aerial demonstration unit we continue to make lasting impressions in hopes of inspiring young men and women to become Army Strong. The Black demonstration team did just that this weekend and even had the opportunity to pack our parachutes with the assistance of some of our spectators.
Black team took their full show performance to the blue skies of Travis AFB in front of a reported 85,000 spectators on Sunday. The Golden Knights opened the show flying in our Nations Colors to a live National Anthem. On board our aircraft for this performance were reporters from World Air Show News, KTVU Channel 2 as well as PAO’s from Travis AFB. The team performed the baton pass, diamond track and a mass formation followed by a signature Golden Knight team lineup. The team heads back to Fort Bragg, NC this week to prep for their next air show May 9th-11th at Joint Base Mcguire-Dix in Lakehurst, NJ.
By SSG Shelbie Bixler
Photos by SSG Reese Pendleton
SSG Bixler sending spotting information to team through SFC Corey Hood
PFC Winger High Five
SFC Presgraves talking with audience