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Big plane lands on small runway

Posted 6/13/2014   Updated 6/13/2014 Email story   Print story

    


by Army Sgt. 1st Class Benjamin Cossel
California National Guard


6/13/2014 - PASO ROBLES, Calif.  -- Nearly 18 months of training, planning, and praying paid off in droves June 8 when a massive C-17 Globemaster from Travis Air Force Base, California, landed in the midday hours at Paso Robles Municipal Airport.

"This is the first time ever an aircraft this large has touched down at this airfield," explained Chief Warrant Officer 5 David Clark, Camp Roberts Aviation Officer.

With the historic landing, Camp Roberts moved one step closer to being the California National Guard's preeminent power projection platform. While the aircraft was empty, the landing validated the concept of moving a large number of troops in a short amount of time and landing them safely at Paso Robles airport, a small municipal airport some 15 miles from Camp Roberts.

Located in central California, traveling to Camp Roberts for the majority of California National Guard units involves long hours behind the wheel in large convoys. Long convoy operations bring a whole host of problems for commanders, ranging from clogging the highway infrastructure to increased risk of accidents and breakdowns.

"What this brings to leaders of the Cal Guard is the ability to load nearly an entire battalion of Soldiers from anywhere in the state and get them quickly to Camp Roberts," Clark stated.

According to the manufacturer, Boeing, the C-17 is capable of carrying a 160,000-pound payload, or just a bit more than one M1/A2 Abrams main battle tank. More practical in the event of a state emergency, a C-17 can transport up to 26 Humvees.

In addition to moving Soldiers quickly, transporting Soldiers by air negates the need for long convoys clogging up the California roadways and gives commanders more of one of their most precious resources--time.

"If I can get those guys on that aircraft," Clark said as he pointed to the C-17, "commanders are using less of their time getting their units to Camp Roberts and more of it training or responding to a state emergency."

Before Clark and his team could witness the landing, the pilot said an intensive engineering study of the Paso Robles Airport was required. For that, Clark looked to his friends in the active U.S. Air Force, specifically the 301st Airlift Squadron out of Travis Air Force Base.

"The engineering study ended up benefiting both the California National Guard and the city of Paso Robles," said Clark.

With no recent study of the airport's landing capabilities, Clark explained the city can now market their airfield to large aircraft.

"This is definitely an economic boon for the city," he said.

Increased mobility, economic boon and other practical matters aside, one employee of the airport after witnessing the landing and taking a tour of the aircraft descended the steps of the C-17 and noted, "Man! That was freaking cool!"




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