y 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
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
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
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