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Air Force, Boeing experts team to improve C-17 airdrop capabilities

  • Published
  • By Senior Airman Clinton Atkins
  • 97th Air Mobility Wing Public Affairs
Airmen from the 58th Airlift Squadron collaborated with Boeing engineers, acquisition personnel from the 516th Aeronautical Systems Group at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, Ohio, and Headquarters Air Mobility Command at Scott Air Force Base, Ill., during a trade-off study of the C-17 Globemaster III's airdrop capabilities Feb. 12 and 13.

During the study, Boeing and Air Force servicemembers used their combined expertise to determine what C-17 airdrop improvements to make. The focus for this project is the dual row airdrop configuration used during airdrop missions.

Currently, a dual row airdrop mission requires two loadmasters working in sync to deliver supplies and equipment effectively. With the ongoing project, the Air Force plans to reduce the requirement to one loadmaster. The improvement project is currently on the drawing board.

"The airdrop improvement project is broken into two phases. Part of phase one is a trade-off study analysis. The study will give the Air Force options on how to improve airdrop operations," said Master Sgt. Scott Haak, C-17 Airlift Systems program manager from Headquarters Air Mobility Command.

The team made use of an available C-17 to demonstrate the configuration. They also used loadmaster simulators, "because actual airdrops happen in a matter of seconds," Sergeant Haak said.

"We can break that whole process down and stop it at certain key points throughout the airdrop sequence, so the engineers get a chance to understand how the operator interacts with the airplane and how the airplane completes the airdrop," he said.

After the trade off study, Boeing and the Air Force will compile and analyze the gathered data to determine what improvements can be made.

Sergeant Haak said that coming to Altus AFB was the ideal way for the team of innovators to analyze airdrop procedures and to collect invaluable data.

"With (Senior Master Sgt. Brian Williams, 58th AS) being formerly in my position, he was willing to help us and provide some of the training devices that the instructors use to break down the process for the students," he said.

Deken Keil and Keith Clark, 516th Aeronautical Systems Group engineers, said it all boils down to availability and simple necessities to complete a study of the C-17.

"Altus AFB was logical place to go," Mr. Keil said. "(It) has the expertise, training devices and ability to use the airplane to accomplish a trade off study."
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