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California Air Guard 146th Maintenance Group Learns New Skill

  • Published
  • By Staff Sgt. Kalia Jenkins,
  • 146 Airlift Wing, California Air National Guard

VOLK FIELD, Wis. - On a chilly, overcast morning that promised rain in the very northern state of Wisconsin, 28 U.S. Airmen assigned to the 146th Maintenance Group of the Air National Guard in Southern California move equipment around a stripped-down C-130H Hercules airplane with the letters CDDAR emblazoned on its side. 

The service members trained April 15-19 for a U.S. Air Force mission called Crash Damaged and Disabled Aircraft Recovery (CDDAR).

U.S. Air Force Staff Sgt. Danielle Dupont, a journeyman environmental electrician with the 146th Maintenance Group and a certified CDDAR member, defines the CDDAR mission as “getting an aircraft level and stabilized and removing it from whatever horrible scenario it was in.”

Over the years, the 146MX has helped recover three disabled aircraft: a Hawker Hunter, n MQ-4C Triton and a KC-130 Hercules. U.S. Air Force Senior Master Sgt. Giovanni Macro, aircraft maintenance superintendent, was involved in the last two missions. 

” The recovery of the MQ-4C Triton had 10 people from the 146th CDDAR team, and the entire aircraft was removed at once,” Macro said. 

The most recent incident was more complex, involving the KC-130 Hercules and a dozen people from the 146th. Many specialists had to take the aircraft apart before removing the pieces. Macro said both aircraft were significantly damaged and taken out of service.

For the most recent mission, the 146th CDDAR team needed to call up augmentees to assist. Since then, they have prioritized training additional Airmen in this skill set.

Twelve Airmen at the training event were augmentees, meaning they needed to be certified in CDDAR. The course gives an overview of the fundamentals of crashed aircraft recovery.

“You train augmentees to have a better team. You want to have your team as well-rounded as possible,” Macro explained. “The more people you have who know the aircraft, the better you are at recovering an aircraft.”

The augmentees learned the steps of de-bogging — getting an aircraft out of a hole or mud by lifting it with airbags or a crane and pulling the disabled aircraft, most often tail first, safely across a field. 

“We always try to start with safety. You know, wear your hard hat, don’t crawl under the aircraft, etc. Then we go over the scenario and what the end product should be,” Dupont said.

Many types of equipment are specific to CDDAR, such as dunnage, tirfors and tension sensors. Dunnage is the support beams that fill holes or span unstable or uneven ground. Tirfors are the winch system used with a set of cables. The tension sensors are mounted to the cables near the tirfors. The current pressure is relayed to the other winching points to maintain balanced pressure, preventing the plane or helicopter from tipping while it is lifted.

Airmen who would like to become certified can request to attend the longer, more detailed course at Sheppard Air Force Base in Wichita Falls, Texas. 

Dupont says she chose to get certified because she saw others “come from a real-world scenario. And I was like, ‘Hey, how do I get in on that? Wait a second, that looked real cool.’”