Scott Air Force Base News

Total Force team commissions radar in Nepal, runway in Antartica mission

A combined team of Federal Aviation Administration, 375th Operations Group Detachment 1 and 1st Aviation Standard Flight aircrew and maintenance members commissioned a new runway in October 2017, at McMurdo Base, Antarctica, to support the National Science Foundation’s research mission.
A combined team of Federal Aviation Administration, 375th Operations Group Detachment 1 and 1st Aviation Standard Flight aircrew and maintenance members commissioned a new runway in October 2017, at McMurdo Base, Antarctica, to support the National Science Foundation’s research mission.

Floating over an infinite mountainous terrain in southern Asia, a Challenger 601 aircraft with the 375th Operations Group, Detachment 1, carries out a unique mission to ensure the safety of the airspace near the Kathmandu Airport.

This mission is extremely important to the U.S. Antarctic Program as air transport is the only way to get people and cargo in or out of McMurdo until the sea ice breaks up later in the Antarctic summer. The new runway was critical to operations as the old runway was suffering.

Lt. Col. Damon Chidester, 375th OG pilot

It’s missions like these that allow the Nepalese government to increase its radar coverage over the entire country, and is just one of the many global missions they perform.

The detachment is a geographically separated unit based out of Oklahoma, and their mission is to validate the safety of civilian and military airspace, procedures and facilities around the world.

“The (Federal Aviation Administration) is the lead organization to support all of the DoD’s flight inspection requirements world-wide for all branches of the military,” said Lt. Col. Jeremy Leighton, 375th OG, Det. 1 commander. “This means we also support our allied partner nations where we have a DoD presence or posture at an airfield, and we have a need for all weather airfield capabilities.”

The team expanded the radar coverage in the Himalayas to improve overall air traffic safety inside Nepal and increased their radar coverage across almost all of the country. This commissioning required the teamwork of personnel from three Nepal, Japan, and the U.S.

On these combat flight inspections, a Total Force team consisting of active duty and Reserve service members work together with the FAA as a crew, said Leighton. This team must work together to ensure the safety of airspace in some of the harshest flying environments in the world.

For example, a combined team of FAA, Det. 1 and 1st Aviation Standard Flight aircrew and maintenance members commissioned a new runway in October 2017, at McMurdo Base, Antarctica, to support the National Science Foundation’s research mission.

Lt. Col. Damon Chidester, 375th OG pilot, said, “This mission is extremely important to the U.S. Antarctic Program as air transport is the only way to get people and cargo in or out of McMurdo until the sea ice breaks up later in the Antarctic summer. The new runway was critical to operations as the old runway was suffering.”

Another example came at the request of the Civil Aviation Authority of Nepal, who asked the FAA to return to Nepal for the first time in 20 years to commission a new enroute radar and provide inspection services.

The team expanded the radar coverage in the Himalayas to improve overall air traffic safety inside Nepal and increased their radar coverage across almost all of the country. This commissioning required the teamwork of personnel from three Nepal, Japan, and the U.S.

For the commissioning, the crew covered over 24,000 air miles that included flying in and out of the Kathmandu airport, which required special qualifications.

On a personal level, it was amazing to be so close to see the Himalayan Mountains, particularly Mount Everest. It was quite a privilege to participate on the Nepal mission from a professional perspective. New radars are not commissioned frequently, so this was a rare training opportunity.

Lt. Col. Jeremy Leighton, 375th OG, Det. 1 commander

Leighton said that, “On a personal level, it was amazing to be so close to see the Himalayan Mountains, particularly Mount Everest. It was quite a privilege to participate on the Nepal mission from a professional perspective. New radars are not commissioned frequently, so this was a rare training opportunity.”

He added that these types of missions “are bigger than Air Mobility Command and the Air Force” by supporting national air space safety objectives around the world.

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