By Master Sgt. Bob Oldham
189th Airlift Wing Public Affairs
For the sixth time in seven years, the Arkansas Air National Guard’s 189th Airlift Wing was named the recipient of the Air Force’s annual flight safety award.
The unit previously earned the award in 2000, 2001, 2002, 2003 and 2005. Air Force officials recently announced the wing won for 2006.
While earning safety plaques brings attention to the wing, the wing’s attention is on safety, both ground and flight.
“If we want to be recognized for winning an [Air Force] level award, the [Air Force] Safety Award is the one you want to win,” Col. Dwight Balch, 189th AW commander, wrote in an e-mail to wing members. “Our wing goes the ‘extra mile’ when it comes to ground and flying safety. You are to be commended for your accomplishments. I appreciate your attitude and focus on safety. You’re the best!”
The 189th AW is one of three C-130 formal training units and flies 5,100 hours annually training students in all four crew positions. The 189th AW has the “largest C-130 flying-hour program in the ANG with zero Class A of B flight mishaps,” the nomination package stated.
A Class A mishap involves a death or $1 million in damage to an aircraft. A Class B mishap constitutes property damage of $200,000 or higher and/or permanent or partial disability.
The wing boasts some of the most experienced C-130 crews in the Air Force, said Maj. Marc Sicard, the wing’s chief of safety. But flight safety, he acknowledged, starts on the ground.
“We have some of the oldest C-130s in the Air Force inventory,” Colonel Balch said. “One is a 1961 model. The planes need and receive a lot of care from our maintenance group. These guys and gals in maintenance average 20 years of experience. We trust them with our lives every day, and we know they’re not going to let us down.” While having experienced aircrews and maintenance personnel helps, so does being proactive. The wing has a robust foreign object damage program, which has kept the wing from encountering a FOD incident in roughly three years.
Members from across the wing canvass the parking ramp and hangar area, searching for anything that could be sucked into an engine. The 189th AW has flown more than 90,000 hours without a Class A mishap. Its last Class B was in 2001. Each year the Air Force awards two flight safety plaques each to every major command and reserve component.
The ANGs 171st Air Refueling Wing in Pittsburgh, Pa., earned the other flight safety award for the Air Guard.