Military News

Friday, June 26, 2015

EOD, NASA take blast at the past

by Jet Fabara
412th Test Wing Public Affairs

6/11/2015 - EDWARDS AIR FORCE BASE, Calif. -- How do you dispose of more than 30 years of expired explosive aircraft equipment in less than one minute? While some may say "very carefully," the real answer at Edwards is with the help of the Explosive Ordnance Disposal Team.

Since a growing number of explosive ejection seat items had been in storage at NASA's Armstrong Flight Research Center Life Support shop over the years and needed to be disposed of, the NASA shop sought out the assistance of the 412th Civil Engineer Group EOD team to dispose of these items June 8 at the Open Burn/Open Detonation range.

"Today we disposed of approximately 500 pounds of NASA ordnance that they've been stockpiling for 30 to 50 years belonging to aircraft like the SR-71, to include some experimental planes," said Staff Sgt. Christopher Severe, 412th CE EOD Quality Assurance Section. "They weren't able to ship a lot of the equipment since it would cost their team about half a million dollars in transportation. So it was far cheaper to involve us, and a lot more convenient."

"We had a lot of old ejection seat pyrocatridges and rocket engines from our aircraft programs. The need to dispose of these items started because we had some old Stanley YANKEE Extraction System rockets that were too old to ship back to depot so we had to look for local disposal methods and that's where EOD said they could help," added Travis Gidner, NASA AFRC Operations Life Support.

While Gidner noted that a lot of people usually wonder about the historic value of the items, he said that due to its volatile nature, it wasn't safe and feasible to keep the items.

"The reason we had to dispose of it is because of the explosive content that's contained within each item. We have stuff dating back to A-1 Sky Raider seats all the way up to our F-16, F-18, B-52 and T-38," Gidner said. "Even though there is a value, historically, to these items, pyrocatridges usually don't last and will usually degrade over time. There's also the possibility that it may become unstable over time and that's what happened to the YANKEE rockets. They weren't safe to transport anymore, so we had to get rid of them here."

Although Gidner said they brought out a good portion of items that NASA had stockpiled, this was just the first of two detonation and disposal events due to limited range time.

"When we contacted EOD, they came out, inventoried and photographed everything. The process took approximately six months, but they gathered the size and weight of everything; this way they could plan how much C-4 they should use," said Gidner. "Due to our range time, we had to sort out the biggest items we needed disposed of and planned for a future disposal event."

According to Severe, the EOD team used approximately 412 pounds of C-4 explosive.

"This was definitely a first with NASA. Although we had to go through an extensive process, which involved writing up memorandums, between NASA, EOD and the base, it was a valuable experience for our young EOD technicians as well," said Severe.

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