Military News

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

MacDill Airmen assist B-2 crew

by Senior Airman Ned T. Johnston
6th Air Mobility Wing Public Affairs

6/15/2015 - MACDILL AIR FORCE BASE, Fla. -- Four air traffic controllers and 14 firefighters assigned to the 6th Air Mobility Wing assisted the crew of a B-2 Spirit bomber during an emergency landing on MacDill Air Force Base, Florida, April 23, 2015.

It was roughly 8 p.m. when Airmen in MacDill's air traffic control tower received a message from Tampa International Airport that a B-2 was inbound with an in-flight emergency. The B-2 was having avionics and communications issues, which prevented it from continuing its flight causing the need for an emergency landing at MacDill.

Shortly after receiving the call, air traffic controllers were able to patch and establish a line of communication with the pilot of the B-2. The pilot was able to tell controllers that the aircraft's systems weren't showing if the plane's landing gear was down properly or if it was stuck in the up position. He requested a low, slow pass over the airfield which would allow the air traffic controllers and the crash fire station to confirm the position of the landing gear.

When the B-2 passed over MacDill's airspace, they were able to confirm that the landing gear was in the down position and that the plane would be able to land safely.

There are weather and runway considerations that air traffic controllers are responsible for communicating to all incoming pilots. Staff Sgt. Charles Hildreth, 6th Operations Support
Squadron air traffic controller, and his team of controllers informed the B-2 pilot that MacDill has an aircraft arresting system - a runway condition not mandatory to tell incoming pilots of - on the runway to slow down incoming fighter jets when they land.

"The pilot informed us that the B-2 couldn't land on a runway with that kind of system; that it could cause damage to the aircraft," said Hildreth.
The air traffic control tower contacted the crash fire station and requested the arresting system be removed. According to Hildreth, the firefighters removed the arresting system in just 10 minutes, a process normally taking upwards of 40 minutes to complete.

"My team went out there and executed the mission flawlessly from beginning to end," said Senior Master Sgt. Jim Thompson, 6th Civil Engineer Squadron deputy fire chief. "We train for emergency situations, and we went out there and got the job done right. I couldn't ask for a better team."

With the arresting system removed, the B-2 was able to land safely on MacDill thanks to the firefighters and air traffic controllers who made it possible.

Once on the ground, security forces personnel formed a high priority security area for approximately 20 hours around the B-2 until it could be brought to a hangar for repairs.

Over a two-week period, maintainers from Whiteman AFB and technicians from Northrop Grumman worked tirelessly to prepare the jet for flight. The 6th Operations Group, 6th Maintenance Group and 6th Mission Support Group at MacDill provided support in many ways, ranging from security measures at the hangar housing the aircraft and living accommodations for the team repairing the jet.

"From a pilot's perspective, this emergency and recovery was challenging," said Lt. Col. Timothy Hale, 509th Bomb Wing Operations Group deputy commander and one of the two pilots of the aircraft. "However, the real success story is how team MacDill worked together across operations, maintenance and mission support groups to support our maintainers and return a national asset to a combat mission ready status."

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