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4/28/2015 10:00 AM
Rough Terrain Won't Hold Back the Heavy Airlift Wing Aerial Port
28 APR 2015 - PÁPA - -The C-17 cargo jets of the Strategic Airlift Capability can deliver their payloads by parachute to locations where landing the aircraft would be impossible. Executing airdrops requires special skills from both them aircrews and the personnel supporting the on ground. On 22 April 2015 the Heavy Airlift Wing Aerial Port organized a rough terrain forklift training to practise the skills needed in the recovery of parachute delivered cargo during SAC airdrop training events in Hungary.

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Members of the Strategic Airlift Capability Heavy Airlift Wing Logistics Support Squadron Aerial Port maneuver forklift vehicles on angled road surfaces around the Pápa Air Base training course during the 22 April 2015 rough terrain forklift training event. The training aims at giving the Aerial Port members the opportunity practise using their vehicles when recovering airdropped payloads of the SAC C-17 cargo jets during training events at the Balaton Drop Zone. Photo: HAW / Ville Tuokko

The Heavy Airlift Wing, the operational arm of the Strategic Airliftt Capability has a capability for single ship airdrop, parachute assisted delivery of cargo and personnel to locations where its C-17 cargo jets couldn’t land for offloading the payload.

Currently SAC program member nations use this capability to deliver equipment and personnel to support their training events and exercises in several locations around Europe.

In order to keep its aircrews current for the airdrop missions, the Heavy Airlift Wing carries out training regularly over the Balaton Drop Zone established to Gyulafirátót training range near the town of Veszprém, approximately 50 kilometers away from the SAC home base at Pápa Air Base.

When SAC C-17s train airdrops over Gyulafirátót, it is under the responsibility of the HAW Logistics and Support Squadron (LSS) Aerial Port to recover the training payloads from the drop zone.

Handling, preparing and planning C-17 payloads is the daily business for the multinational team working at the HAW LSS Aerial Port that consist of trained and certified forklift operators, but according to the Air Movement Officer of the HAW LSS Aerial Port, Major Pieter de Bock of the Royal Netherlands Air Force, recovering a heavy pallet from rough terrain requires special skills that are not needed every day.

“A cargo pallet weighs several hundred kilos and it is always recovered with a 4 x 4 forklifter vehicle that can lift it up and transport it. We at the Aerial Port handle these kinds of loads daily as we load and offload cargo from the SAC C-17s here at Pápa Air Base. However, when recovering a pallet from rough terrain the weight and balance of the vehicles we use is different from the operations on the smooth tarmac of an airfield apron. Therefore it is important from time to time to practise their use on unprepared surfaces.”

To achieve practise in handling their vehicles on rough terrain, the multinational members of the HAW LSS Aerial Port joined their colleagues of the Hungarian Defence Forces Aerial Port at Pápa Air Base for a common driving training event on 22 April.

For the event the SAC forklifters were taken to the Pápa Air Base rough terrain driving course. On the course the vehicles and their drivers faced challenges posed by narrow unpaved roads with steep uphill and downhill slopes, angled surfaces and tricky corners.

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Members of the HAW LSS Aerial Port lift a a C-17 cargo pallet with a forklifter  vehicle in conditions simulating the recovery of a parachute delivered payload from rough terrain during airdrop training events. Photo: HAW / Ville Tuokko

After doing several laps around the course that seemed to offer a realistic view of the road conditions that can be met at a military training range acting as a drop zone, the Aerial Port Members had additional practise in pallet recovery methods with forklifters on rough terrain. For this training two pre-prepared airlift pallets loaded with C-17 tyres simulating equipment delivered by airdrop were placed in several locations around the driving training course area.

After practising basic skills of picking up the cargo and maneuvering the forklift on soft terrain outside roads, the difficulty level of the recovery training was increased by placing the training pallets to different locations such as steep hills.

For the the HAW LSS Aerial Port, the rough terrain training event was the first of its kind. It was a part of the second Heavy Airlift Wing training week of 2015. Heavy Airlift Wing organizes four training week events annually that focus on the ground training of its personnel to develop their skills in different aspects of their daily duties supporting the execution of the SAC airlift missions.

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HAW LSS Aerial Port forklifter prepares to descent a steep hill on the Pápa Air Base training course during the Aerial Port  rough terrain forklift training event on 22 April 2015. Photo: HAW / Ville Tuokko