TRAVIS AIR FORCE BASE, Calif. – Hoping for the best, but preparing for the worst is the unofficial motto of the 60th Maintenance Squadron aero repair team’s Crash, Damaged or Disabled Aircraft Recovery program at Travis Air Force Base, California.
“The CDDAR is the program you hope you never need,” said Staff Sgt. Steven Bunnell, 60th Maintenance Squadron aero repair technician. “Our program is designed to safely and effectively handle situations where a downed aircraft can be salvaged, repaired, recovered and hopefully, fly again.”
Aero repair technicians use tools such as lifting air bags, pneumatic manifolds and air compressors to complete their mission. Each of the lifting air bags can be inflated and stacked to more than 10 feet in height and are able to support either 30,000 pounds or 52,000 pounds, depending on the type of bag. Using stacking methods and multiple stations, the bags have a total lifting capacity of more than 500,000 pounds. These tools are annually inspected for quality assurance.
“Every annual inspection involves aero repair pulling out all of our lifting air bags and consoles to air up and ensure that they are all good to go for a real-world event,” said Tech. Sgt. Robert Venable, 60th MXS aero repair team lead. “We would use the bags as an emergency method of lifting an aircraft in a scenario such as an airplane going off the runway when getting jacks in place was not practical or possible.”
“The first and best option is always going to be hydraulic jacks on the aircraft’s manufactured jacking points,” said Bunnell. “When that is not an option due to structural damage or the aircraft sinking to a point where it is impossible to safely position the hydraulic jacks under the aircraft, the aircraft would be lifted on bags until such time as it would be safe for maintenance procedures.”
The CDDAR program is not a first response unit, but if an emergency occurs where an active runway needs to be cleared, the team could be in position using their mobile CDDAR vehicle in approximately 30 minutes.
“CDDAR is critical to AMC because without a conditioned program to recover aircraft that have gone of the runway, crashed or had landing gear failure and are stuck on the runway, it would take much longer for the aircraft to be recovered or put back into service,” said Venable. “Our mission at AR is to keep the three airframes we have here at Travis in the air and mission capable at all times.”
The AR mission would be impossible to accomplish without the combined expertise of the maintainers involved. Venable speaks highly of the 60th MXS aero repair team.
“Aero repair has many maintainers with years of experience on each aircraft,” he said. “We share that experience with each other every day and we are always learning something new. On top of being experts in a more technical side of aircraft maintenance, I believe we are the best CDDAR in Air Mobility Command due to the diversity of our aircraft and the experience that comes with having three different airframes.”
Lt. Col. Claudio Covacci, 60th MXS commander, said the CDDAR team provides vital support to Travis AFB and civilian aviators.
“The Travis CDDAR Team is capable of assisting in the recovery of any DoD or civil aircraft in both permissive and opposed environments,” he said. “Our personnel are trained subject matter experts in a wide variety of special equipment and risk awareness. Their goal is to recover disabled weapons systems without incurring injuries or illnesses associated with hazards attributed to unstable crash sites.”
“On multiple occasions, our team has assisted in recovering both military and civil aircraft,” he said. “As a previous enlisted CDDAR team member, I fully appreciate our enlisted and civilian Airmen that stand ready to spring into action to ensure continuity of airfield operations. I am truly proud of our team.”
Travis is unique in the fact that it is the only AMC base with three different airframes, allowing it to rapidly project American power anytime…anywhere.