Heritage Flight Conference trains more than pilots

  • Published
  • By Airman 1st Class Michael Washburn
  • 355th Fighter Wing Public Affairs
The on-looking crowd lets out audible "oohs" and "aahs" as mechanical aerial beasts perform precision maneuvers and formations hundreds of feet in front of their heads. To everyone's relief, the planes remain unscathed as they return safely back to solid ground.

Scenes like this are the norm for any air show or demonstration. For the most part, everything goes according to plan, but sometimes things go amiss.

"In 1997, the leaders of Air Combat Command assembled a select group of retired military and civilian performers to celebrate the 50th Anniversary of the United States Air Force," said Michelle Clougher, Air Combat Command Public Affairs. "From this gathering was born the Heritage Flight, a unique visual representation of the Air Force's history from the days of the Army Air Corps to the present. Heritage flights are now performed at air shows and special events in the United States and around the world."

Firefighters from D-M spent some time out on the flightline learning aircraft egress training techniques and procedures they could use in the event of an emergency March 1. The aircraft they were getting acquainted with were the P-51 and TF-51 Mustangs.

"We are practicing pilot rescue procedures on all the aircrafts for the Heritage Flight Conference," said Staff Sgt. Brandon Carlson, 355th Civil Engineer Squadron driver engineer. "We need to know how to get to the pilots in the event of a crash or if the pilot is unconscious. We go through all the different aircrafts individually and when we get back to the fire station, we'll disseminate the information as needed."

The fact that there are similarities between the Mustangs and the aircraft they usually work with makes things easier for the fire department.

"We primarily deal with A-10s, HH-60s and C-130s, so the operational fundamentals between those aircraft and the ones at Heritage Flight are the same," Staff Sgt. Kyle Reed, 355th Civil Engineer Squadron crew chief.

With the increase of safety features and equipment of modern planes, there is also an increase in the number of steps to perform before rescuing a pilot is possible.

"On an A-10, there is five or six step that need to be done to get to the pilot," Reed said. "On the P-51s, there are three. It makes things a lot easier and simpler when getting to the canopy."

One danger all aircraft share is fire. An aircraft on fire is like a ticking time bomb just waiting to explode. With most of the planes at the Heritage Flight Conference scheduled to fly, the possibility the possibility of an accident is ever-present. Although that is the main danger when dealing with aircraft, it's not the only risk the fire department needs to look out for.

"Propellers can be a big danger," Reed said. "Tires can also be a hazard because they can explode, so we need to make sure those are safe."

With all the challenges firefighters may potentially face, training becomes paramount. That's the reason the fire department conducts this Heritage Flight egress training. Familiarizing themselves with the different types of aircraft ensures safe extraction of the pilot with the minimal amount of time.