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‘Skibirds’ train in Greenland

Photo: An LC-130 from the 109th Airlift Wing takes off from Raven Camp on July 28. New York ANG/Senior Master Sgt Willie Gizara

 

US Air Force LC-130 ‘Skibirds’ are training for polar operations at Raven Camp near Kangerlussuaq in Greenland.

Aircrews and their ski-equipped Hercules transports from the New York Air National Guard’s 109th Airlift Wing are preparing for operations elsewhere in Greenland and in Antarctica.

The New York ANG operates ten LC-130H airlifters that are used in support of the National Science Foundation. These are operated alongside a pair of ‘vanilla’ C-130Hs.

Located 108 miles (174km) southeast of Kangerlussuaq, Greenland, on the Greenland ice cap, Raven Camp provides opportunities to land and take off on snow and ice.

It’s also the location of the field portion of ‘Kool School’, which provides crews with three days of arctic survival skills training.

“We’ll get them out to that snowfield, and we’ll work on our take-offs and landing,” said Maj Justin Garren, 139th Airlift Squadron’s Greenland Operations chief. “We’ll work on special procedures on the ground for the loadmasters to load and unload on the snow.”

Maj Dia Ham, a co-pilot student with the 139th Airlift Squadron, flew her first Skibird training mission on the ice cap on July 27. “There’s a level of nervousness,” she said about her first time flying to Raven Camp. “You plan for it and you hear the stories, but it was so exciting to finally see it myself with my own eyes and be in the seat.

“There’s no way to change the steps that we follow or the procedures or the sequence of events – but you can’t prepare for landing on skis,” she said.

A cargo pallet is delivered by LC-130 to scientists at the East Greenland Ice Core Project on July 29. New York ANG/Senior Master Sgt William Gizara

Loadmaster training included combat offloads, in which cargo is offloaded while the aircraft is flying with the ramp lowered just 18in above the snow.

“There’s a lot you have to learn really quickly,” said Airman 1st Class Taylor Richards, a student loadmaster. “The stuff that we do, they can’t teach you in loadmaster school because it’s only stuff that we do. There are only about 60 loadmasters in the unit, and we’re the only ones in the world who do this, so there’s a little bit of a learning curve.”

The 109th Airlift Wing is on its fifth rotation of the Greenland season, which began in April and will end in September. Each rotation takes place during the local summer months and involves around 80 airmen and three to four aircraft.

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