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Reserve wing hosts ‘Mountain Fly-In’ for C-130 units

Five C-130 Hercules aircraft taxi on the Peterson Air Force Base, Colorado flightline, after formation flying during a training sortie hosted by the 302nd Airlift Wing, June 23, 2018.

Five C-130 Hercules aircraft taxi on the Peterson Air Force Base, Colorado flightline, after formation flying during a training sortie June 23, 2018. Five C-130’s and their aircrews from Air Force Reserve units in Arkansas, Colorado, Minnesota and the Air National Guard Air Force Reserve Command Test Center, Arizona, participated in mountain aviation flying training missions led by the Air Force Reserve’s 302nd Airlift Wing, based at Peterson Air Force Base. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Frank Casciotta)

A C-130J Super Hercules aircraft from Little Rock Air Force Base, Ark., sits on the ramp at Peterson Air Force Base, Colorado, June 23, 2018.

A C-130J Super Hercules aircraft from Little Rock Air Force Base, Ark., sits on the ramp at Peterson Air Force Base, Colorado, June 23, 2018. Aircrews from Air Force Reserve units in Arkansas, Colorado, Minnesota and the Air National Guard Air Force Reserve Command Test Center, Arizona, participated in mountain aviation flying training missions led by the Air Force Reserve’s 302nd Airlift Wing, based at Peterson Air Force Base. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Frank Casciotta)

A 913th Airlift Group Aircrew flies a C-130J Super Hercules aircraft through a mountain pass in central Colorado, June 23, 2018.

A 913th Airlift Group Aircrew flies a C-130J Super Hercules aircraft through a mountain pass in central Colorado, June 23, 2018. The 913th AG joined aircrews from Air Force Reserve units in Colorado, Minnesota and the Air National Guard Air Force Reserve Command Test Center, Arizona, in mountain aviation flying training missions led by the Air Force Reserve’s 302nd AW, based at Peterson Air Force Base. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Frank Casciotta)

PETERSON AIR FORCE BASE, Colo. -- Two years ago the C-130 Hercules aircraft pilots of the Air Force Reserve Command’s 302nd Airlift Wing’s 731st Airlift Squadron kicked off the training opportunity designed to challenge aircrews and build teams with other Air Force Reserve wings across the U.S.

The training experience, called “The Mountain Fly-In,” focused on flying at high-density altitudes amongst the highest terrain in the U.S., maneuvering through that environment, conducting airdrops in one of the most challenging drop zones available to the 302nd AW and formation flying.

For this year’s training, held June 21 through 24, the 731st AW was joined by the 934th AW, Minneapolis St. Paul Air Reserve Station, Minneapolis, the 913th Airlift Group, Little Rock Air Force Base, Arkansas, and the Advanced Airlift Test Center, Davis-Monthan AFB, Arizona.

The training provided a unique opportunity for pilots to fly mixed formations with the C-130H, C-130J and the upgraded 8-bladed propeller variant of the C-130H, often called the "Super H.”

“This Mountain Fly-In combined the challenges of merging different C-130 variants with different unit cultures in a challenging flying environment,” said Lt. Col. Richard Pantusa, the 302nd Operations Group commander.  "Thinking through the limitations and methods of inter-fly, along with bringing fresh and differing perspectives into one formation breaks down any complacency that could creep in.”

For reservists here mountain flying is routine, but few other C-130 units have opportunities to train in similar environments.

“Little Rock has ‘mountains,’ but they are essentially large hills when compared to actual mountains such as the Rockies,” said Lt. Col. Christopher Dickens, a 913th AG chief pilot who attended the training. “The altitude is also significantly higher, and this degrades our aircrafts’ performance significantly. Our crews learn to anticipate the limitations in performance, and think ahead when evaluating terrain and weather conditions. We deploy to similar locations worldwide, such as Afghanistan and South America, so it's important for our crews to learn and appreciate the knowledge required to safely operate in areas like Colorado.”

Though there is no guarantee, the 731st AW plans to host the training again next year.

“We are grateful to the participating units for supporting this training opportunity,” said Pantusa. “We hope to host this training again next year. Opportunities like this strengthen our relationship with other units and, in turn, our overall ability as a flying force.”