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Barnestormers complete joint aircraft recovery training

  • Published
  • By 1st Lt. Amelia Leonard,
  • 104th Fighter Wing/Public Affairs

WESTFIELD, Mass. – Nearly 50 Air National Guard and Air Force Reserve members from the 104th Fighter Wing, 158th Fighter Wing and 439th Air Mobility Wing completed a joint, hands-on Crash, Damaged or Disabled Aircraft Recovery training at Barnes Air National Guard Base April 3.

The CDDAR program is designed to safely and effectively recover damaged or disabled military or civilian aircraft after a mishap or crash for repair or salvage. The team at Barnes used inflatable dunnage bags and wire tie-downs to slowly and safely lift the aircraft off the ground during the simulated recovery.

Although dunnage bags brought in from the 103rd Airlift Wing, Bradley ANGB, Connecticut, were responsible for getting the aircraft at Barnes off the ground, Barnestormer Master Sgt. Michael Land, 104FW Maintenance Squadron repair and reclamation section supervisor, did the bulk of the heavy lifting to get this training off the ground.

This hands-on training was the first of its kind in the New England region and accomplished the annual certification of 36 members from the 104th FW, six from the 158th Fighter Wing, and seven from the 439th AMW. 

All CDDAR team members go through annual refresher training at their local installations, besides their initial skills training at Sheppard Air Force Base, Texas, or flight team chief training at Volk Field, Wisconsin. CDDAR teams only simulate lifting aircraft at their home station.

Empowered by retired Command Chief Master Sgt. Paul Barbee’s call to Airmen at every level to be bold and make swift, commonsense decisions, Land reached out to Maj. Jason Hickox, Maintenance Squadron commander, to see if the Barnes CDDAR team could use an F-15C Eagle static display to complete annual training this year. 

Land, who has communicated with the CDDAR team leads from Westover, Bradley and Burlington since they all attended the advanced CDDAR training at Volk Field, spent the next five months organizing the joint training. He created a Facebook group and Microsoft Teams page where members share helpful information, like training plans.

Although each of the three units involved flies different airframes, in the event of any civilian or military aircraft mishap in the Northeast, members from every team could be asked to respond.

Staff Sgt. Jessica Putnam, 104FW egress journeyman, has been on the Barnes CDDAR team for three years. Other than her initial skills training at Sheppard AFB, this is her only hands-on experience using real aircraft. 

While at Sheppard, she trained using the C-17 Globemaster III, C-130 Hercules and F-15C. However, at Sheppard, they used cables and a crane training with the F15C.

“This training has given me a better understanding of the functionality of how to raise the jet,” Putnam said. “We’re using real, hands-on training, which allows you to actually see and know what to do. Being able to know exactly what to do and which safety procedures need to be followed is important because a lot of people freeze and need to be prepared in the moment. Knowledge is power, and with knowledge comes the confidence to do it right.”

The joint training environment was also beneficial.

“Getting the chance to work together with everyone is really a big deal,” said Felix Chapdelaine, 104FW crash reconnaissance and recovery technician. “I joined the reconnaissance and recovery team to do this type of thing. Having people from other units here is great because joint training is so important. You never know when you might get called out to a military or civilian airframe, and you already have those points of contact, built relationships and trust.”

Becoming a member of the CDDAR team and participating in this training was unlike anything Staff Sgt. Nicholas Landi, 104FW repair and reclamation crew chief, has experienced. Landi recently joined the unit after coming off active-duty service. 

“CDDAR looked like something awesome I wanted to be a part of,” he said. “Working alongside members from other units gives me a different look and different ideas on how to go about the process.”

Land hopes to use the static aircraft again for training. This hands-on training effectively replaces the hands-on training at Volk Field, he said. 

“This type of training not only provides excellent training, but it saves time and an estimated cost of $3,000 per person.”