Fairchild Aircrew Lauded For Safe Landing
SPOKANE – A 92nd Air Refueling Wing aircrew is being lauded for its efforts to bring a KC-135 down safe after they lost all electronic navigation while flying over the borders of Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan last week.
The crew of Shell 73 – pilot Capt. Matthew Jaeger, co-pilot 1st Lt. Vance Feavel and boom operator Senior Airman Mckayla Dick – were flying a refueling mission on March 16th out of Manas Air Base when their KC-135 lost all electronic navigation flight systems, according to an article in the Monday edition of Stars and Stripes.
Dense clouds made visual navigation impossible and a visual approach into Manas was also impossible due to dense clouds and heavy rain at the airbase.
Capt. Jaeger then told Sr. Airman Dick to get the handheld GPS out of the tanker’s crash survival kit and he decided, after declaring a mayday, that he would pilot the aircraft south to a landing in Afghanistan.
“We had to land at a field where we could use visual flight rules, one where we could see the runway and manually input our landing data,” Capt. Jaeger said in an Air Force news release.
Using the GPS unit they navigated south, staying clear of both Chinese and Iranian airspace to Bagram Air Base. Capt. Jaeger declared a mayday to the ground controllers at Bagram and a C-17 cargo plane was called out to conduct a mid-air rendezvous with the tanker which then led the aircraft down to Bagram safely.
“In my experience, something like this has never happened before,” Lt. Col. Patrick Rhatigan, commander of the 22nd Expeditionary Air Refueling Squadron at Manas said.. “For him to pull out the handheld GPS shows a level of maturity and quick thinking not usually seen in junior aircraft commanders.”
After getting their navigation systems fixed on the ground at Bagram, the crew of Shell 73 returned back to Manas Airbase safely.