C-27J JCA team shows off new training operations center

  • Published
  • By Wayne Crenshaw
  • 78th Air Base Wing
A new cargo plane with short landing and takeoff capability promises to save the lives of warfighters by reducing the need for ground convoys in dangerous areas, and the pilots who will fly it will be trained here.

On Wednesday officials from a broad coalition that includes Air Force, Army, industry and community partners celebrated the opening of the C-27J Joint Cargo Aircraft Schoolhouse. The school is in the former B-1 bomber building at the Air National Guard Headquarters.

In years of development by the Army, the C-27J Spartan program has now been shifted to the Air Force, but it will be a joint program and both Army and Air Force pilots and loadmasters will attend the school. The school has already been in operation at Robins since Sept. 9, when the first of two C-27J planes arrived here, but the school will be under development through 2011. Still to be added are a full-fidelity operational flight trainer and a fuselage trainer. A mockup cockpit has already been installed.

"This aircraft will provide the capability to fly in Afghanistan where they do not have the infrastructure to handle our larger aircraft," said Army Col. Anthony Potts. "It will have the capability to get supplies not within 50 miles of our forces but within the last tactical mile."

The school had already been operating on a temporary basis in Waco, Texas, but transferred here on Sept. 9 with the arrival of the first plane. That allowed the first graduating class of the school to be recognized at Wednesday's ceremony.

The C-27J team is lead by L-3 Communications, the prime contractor for joint cargo aircraft. Built by Alenia North America, an Italian company, the plane is an updated version of the C-27A, carrying with it much greater capability. It is a derivative of Alenia's G.222. The plane looks like a smaller version of the C-130, with the most noticeable difference being that it has two engines rather than four.

The plane requires a ground takeoff run of only 1,900 feet.

The program calls for a minimum of 38 aircraft, but Maj. Gen. William T. Nesbitt, the adjutant general of Georgia, said at the ceremony that he believes that number will eventually rise to 78. The aircraft will be stationed at Air National Guard bases.

He said after the ceremony that that the aircraft will definitely save lives if the program's potential is fully realized.

"It will if we field an adequate number of aircraft, but right now I don't think 38 is enough," he said. Development of the school is a $1.8 million project, which includes $300,000 from the state of Georgia, $125,000 from the city of Warner Robins and the Houston County Development Authority, and $50,000 from the Macon-Bibb Development Authority.