AL UDEID AIR BASE, Qatar — The C-17 Globemaster III aircraft is crucial to Air Mobility Command’s airlift mission at Al Udeid, enabling the movement and supply of warfighters throughout the U.S. Central Command area of responsibility. When two C-17’s were grounded here due to the need for extensive maintenance, Airmen with the 8th Expeditionary Air Mobility Squadron immediately began preparations to fix them.
But the first complication soon became very apparent. The aircrafts’ main landing gear shimmy dampers were the parts that had failed, and fixing them would require the aircraft to first be raised off of the ground completely in order to work on it, a process that takes about an hour to complete. In addition to that, aircraft are not permitted to stay on jacks in winds of 25 knots or greater for safety reasons
“Every time the winds picked up, even if only for half an hour, we would have to bring the aircraft down,” said Senior Master Sgt. John Glass, superintendent with the 8th EAMS. “It usually takes an hour to jack the aircraft up or down, and requires up to 12 personnel to complete.”
The best solution to combat the issue of weather came as a result of the host nation’s forces’ willingness to assist. The Qatar Emiri Air Force towed their own C-17 out of their hangar, the only hangar at Al Udeid capable of holding an entire C-17, and allowed the 8th EAMS to work inside away from the elements.
The hangar has never had an aircraft lifted inside of it before, and required the 379th Expeditionary Civil Engineer Squadron to complete a survey of the hangar stating that the concrete could support the aircraft. To accomplish this, the 379th ECES coordinated with their Qatar Emiri Air Force counterparts to obtain drawings and plans of the hangars, and then used that information to calculate whether or not the hangar would bear the weight of the aircraft.
“This was the first time that [the Qatar Emiri Air Force] has allowed us to use their hangar, as well as the first time that an aircraft has been jacked up inside it,” said Master Sgt. Richard Sliwoski, lead production superintendent with the 8th EAMS.
The 8th EAMS is an AMC tenant unit at Al Udeid AB, whose close partnership with the 379th Air Expeditionary Wing has enabled better relations with the Qatar Emiri Air Force and their C-17 program. These relations with the host nation are imperative to operations at Al Udeid, as they help to make operations smoother and quicker, while serving to benefit both forces.
“Having good relations really helps make our jobs easier,” said Glass. “We are able to directly ask them for help if we need it, and give help in return. We are able to go back and forth to assist one another.”
In partnering with the Qatar Emiri Air Force, maintenance that would have taken at least a week per aircraft took only nine days total, making the aircraft available to continue their airlift missions. With a limited number of C-17’s at Al Udeid, having two of them grounded makes a big impact on AMC’s mission to move cargo, directly impacting mission capability and making time an important factor in fixing them.
“These aircraft transport all types of cargo throughout the [CENTCOM area of responsibility],” said Glass, “and with two of the aircraft grounded, the others had to pick up the work.”
Through cooperation between the Qatar Emiri Air Force, the 8th EAMS and 379th AEW, the aircraft were fixed and put back in the air, while strengthening relations with the host nation forces and allowing for smoother operations in the future.