Reserve aircrew’s quick thinking saves the day, wins 4AF award

  • Published
  • By Michael Dukes
  • 315th Airlift Wing Public Airlift Wing

The 315th Airlift Wing, at Joint Base Charleston, South Carolina, won the 2023 Fourth Air Force Aircrew Excellence Award for their quick thinking during an in-fight emergency in April of 2023.

The C-17 Globemaster III airlift mission was a de-positioning sortie slated to depart from Ramstein Air Base, Germany followed by a stopover at Pease Air National Guard Base, New Hampshire for fuel and then return home to Joint Base Charleston.

On the approach to land at Pease ANG Base, a serious problem presented itself and required the aircrew, urgent attention to safely land the jet.

While performing a pre-landing checklist, the aircrew discovered a high-pressure hydraulic leak, which was preventing the landing gear from being lowered.  Complicating the situation, the leak contaminated a 10-foot radius of the cargo area and interfered with the loadmasters’ ability to bypass the hydraulic system by manually working five separate levers to lower the landing gear.

"The crew of REACH 556, led by Capt. Connor, demonstrated the highest level of professionalism during an aircraft emergency in a critical phase of flight, exacerbated by adverse weather conditions and a limited fuel state,” said Col. Diane Patton, 315th Operations Group commander. “Their swift identification of a significant hydraulic leak, combined with outstanding crew coordination to establish a secure landing configuration, allowed the crew to safely recover the aircraft."

The 4th AF Aircrew Excellence Award was presented to wing leadership, March 6, during the 24th anniversary of the 4th Air Force Raincross Trophy awards at the Riverside Convention Center, California. Maj. Gen. D. Scott Durham, 4th AF commander and Chief Master Sgt. Travon Dennis, 4th AF command chief, presented the award to Col. Alan Partridge, 315th Airlift Wing deputy commander, Patton and Chief Master Sgt. Joe Gonzalez, 315th Airlift Wing command chief.

The 315 AW aircrew named in the award were from the 701st Airlift Squadron. The aircrew members included: Capt. Dennis Conner, aircraft commander, 1st Lt. Kyle Kampsen, pilot, 1st Lt. Alex Perez Romo, pilot, Staff Sgt. Brandon Sofia, loadmaster, Staff Sgt. Cage Stephens, loadmaster, and Staff Sgt. Austin Moreland, loadmaster.

“The Loadmasters that day efficiently executed the emergency checklists that afforded me the necessary time to make well-considered decisions,” said Conner. “That win is solely on their shoulders.”

“As a direct result of their efforts, no crew members were injured and the $218 million aircraft was recovered successfully and landed without additional damage,” the award nomination letter stated.

Also on this flight were Capt. Christopher Beasley, 15th Airlift Squadron, and Tech. Sgt. Robert Miller, 437th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron.

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