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NY Air Guard customizes shipping boxes for 25-foot-long skis

U.S. Air Force Airmen, assigned to the 109th Airlift Wing's Logistical Readiness Squadron, New York Air National Guard, construct crates to carry new, 25-foot-long skis for the wing's LC-130s at Stratton Air National Guard Base, Scotia, N.Y., Dec. 15, 2019. The skis allow the aircraft to land on snow and ice in the Arctic and Antarctic regions. (Courtesy Photo)

U.S. Air Force Airmen, assigned to the 109th Airlift Wing's Logistical Readiness Squadron, New York Air National Guard, construct crates to carry new, 25-foot-long skis for the wing's LC-130s at Stratton Air National Guard Base, Scotia, N.Y., Dec. 15, 2019. The skis allow the aircraft to land on snow and ice in the Arctic and Antarctic regions. (Courtesy Photo)

STRATTON AIR NATIONAL GUARD BASE, Scotia, N.Y. -- Good skis are expensive. So it’s always a good idea to protect them when they’re shipped.

It’s an even better idea to protect them when the skis are 25 feet long, weigh 3,000 pounds, and are used to land 75,800-pound LC-130 cargo airplanes on ice and snow.

But the shipping containers the 109th Airlift Wing uses to move the massive skis were falling apart and no longer serviceable.

So, the wing’s 109th Logistic Readiness Squadron designed and built a new solution for shipping the massive skis.

The 109th’s LC-130 cargo planes are the only heavy airlift aircraft in the world with the ability to take off from, and land on ice and snow.

The skis the planes land on are put through their paces during the wing’s missions to Greenland and Antarctica each year. The skis, like any other part on an airplane, require maintenance and need to be transported to facilities for repair.

That means huge boxes – the kind you can’t get at your local shipping store – must be custom made to transport the skis.

“The solution was around two years in the making,” said Maj. James Vendetti, Logistics Readiness Squadron (LRS) commander.

“Essentially, the way by which we previously transported the skis just wasn’t an option anymore because the shipping containers we inherited had deteriorated to the point that they were unserviceable,” Vendetti said.

To solve this problem, Airmen went to work designing and planning the fabrication of the new crates.

“The team was assembled with people of LRS who simply had the skills and the desire to assist,” said Chief Master Sgt. Michael Pingitore, the materiel management flight chief.

“It was truly a team effort by the 109th, involving several organizations on this base as well as leadership backing and support to find the funding for the project,” he said.

The crates were constructed using wood based on the specifications for the original crates, but with some design improvements.

The Airmen incorporated a better mechanism for opening and closing the crates. They added rubber cushioning to prevent the skis from moving in transit and dunnage – wood pieces – to keep the container off the ground when stored.

“The key part was just to simply bring the right people with the right skills into the mission,” said Tech. Sgt. Andrew Smith, a vehicle operator with the squadron.

“A need was identified, and we in the squadron simply had the means and desire to contribute to the solution and make sure the project, as well as the mission, got done. There wasn’t much more to it than that,” Smith said.

The team took six to eight weeks to fabricate three large crates for the main landing skis and two smaller ones for the skis at the aircraft’s nose.

“This project will also assist in further development of the supply chain for the skis and big Air Force will now be able to move them in the transportation system safely and efficiently,” Pingitore explained.

Polar flying presents unique challenges.

“Given the mission we have and the fact that we are the only unit in the world with the capabilities and the equipment, solutions like this have to come from within the unit itself,” he added. “Since we began flying to the Arctic and Antarctic, it’s been tradition for us to solve our own problems simply because no one else in the Guard or the Air Force knows how we do what we do or what we need to do it.”

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