Preparing for the worst: Niagara Maintainers practice crash, recovery skills
By Staff Sgt. Matthew Burke, 914th Airlift Wing Public Affairs
/ Published June 18, 2015
NIAGARA FALLS AIR RESERVE STATION, N.Y. --
Many base personnel who traveled through the main gate during the June Unit Training Assembly observed Airmen wearing colorful hardhats and moving rapidly around the base's highly visible historical aircraft displays. These Airmen were members of the 914th Maintenance Squadron's Crash Damaged and Disabled Aircraft Recovery Section conducting a training exercise here on June 6-7, 2015.
The 914 MXS, as well as, multiple other base agencies participated in the exercise which simulated lifting the C-119 aircraft located near the Lockport Gate. The CDDAR Section specializes in necessary tasks to recover a crashed or disabled aircraft.
"We're simulating a pneumatic bag lift on the C-119 today," said Tech. Sgt. Norman Green, 914 MXS and CDDAR team chief. "Not only do we get to use the equipment for inspection purposes but we also get the valuable training that comes with a simulated lift."
The goals of the training were to train new personnel, as well as facilitate the steps required for the interoperability of other units. Coordination and participation for the exercise included: Bio-Environmental flight, Civil Engineer, Security Forces, Motor Pool, Supply, Aerial Port and Aerospace Ground Equipment. The exercise simulated a pneumatic bag lift designed to raise an aircraft off the ground. However, in this scenario the bags did not make contact with the aircraft to avoid damaging this historical display.
Personnel involved trained and qualified on various tasks such as: towing an aircraft with a blown tire or performing a sling lift to raise an aircraft off the ground in the event the landing gear collapsed upon landing. Tasks are designed to prevent additional damage to an aircraft. In an actual mishap, the 914 CDDAR team members would work quickly to recover as much equipment from the aircraft in a short time frame.
"We're one of the only bases that uses the pneumatic airbags as opposed to wood pallets for cribbage," said Senior Master Sgt. Frank Camper, support flight chief, 914 MXS. "The bags are ideal because they don't require a level surface. We are well equipped and well trained."
The 914 CDDAR section is one of the most comprehensive in the northeast and the Air Force Reserve Command. These type of training exercises highlight the base's capabilities and showcase the team member's outstanding skill level.
"The plan may someday be to split CDDAR teams up regionally," said Green. "We have three times more CDDAR assets here than regulation requires and more than most bases, so we're trying to put a spotlight on Niagara. We would be able to pack up in a moment's notice to travel to places like Erie, Pittsburgh and Youngstown."
These types of large-scale training exercises are uncommon, but valuable for day-to-day operations at home station and deployed locations. Although the training is comprehensive, it doesn't compare to real-world situations.
"The training was absolutely priceless," said Camper. "We discovered several issues to be addressed in the event that our team was required to perform an actual lift."
CDDAR representation involves most, if not all, Maintenance Air Force Specialty Codes because of technical expertise, as well as, personnel from many of the units across base that would be involved in a real-world crash and recovery incident. Depending on the size or scope of the incident, many additional participants could provide necessary functions.
"Anybody can carry a hose or airbag," said Green. "It would be great to have members from medical or services to help set up our kits, but also to provide help in their specialties in case of an emergency or to help feed personnel."
"There's a certain energy on this base to get the job done," said Tech Sgt. Randy Sherrick, CDDAR team member, 914 MXS. "Every shop wanted to do more to help--it's what makes Niagara special."