A C-17 Globemaster III
rolled off the runway while landing at Bagram Air Base,
Afghanistan, Aug. 6, damaging its nose and right main landing
As a result, the runway was closed, but quick action and
creative thinking by Air Force and Army engineers had the runway
fully active again in less than 30 hours.
There were no injuries in the incident. The cause of the
incident is under investigation.
When it came to rest, one of the C-17’s wings extended
over the active runway, so the aircraft had to be moved. However,
air operations continued while the C-17 was moved off the active
runway. The C-17 measures 174 feet long with a wingspan of 169
feet. It is operated by a crew of three and can carry up to 170,000
lbs of cargo.
Aircraft from here diverted to other airfields and were able to
continue combat missions supporting ground forces. Coalition air
forces also assisted in ensuring constant airpower was maintained
over the battlefield during aircraft recovery operations.
Nevertheless, moving the aircraft proved to be a complicated
process, said Col. Donald Jones, 455th Expeditionary Mission
Support Group commander, who directed the effort.
“It took one big team to brainstorm and come up with the
tools and methods we needed,” he said.
The hardest part of the process, he said, was determining a way
to lift the nose of the aircraft without further damaging it.
First the fuel and cargo needed to be removed. The team removed
105,000 pounds of fuel and unloaded 55,000 pounds of cargo, with
the remaining gross weight of the aircraft estimated at 300,000
pounds. Because of the tilt of the aircraft, the cargo could not be
removed by forklift through the cargo door. The cargo pallets had
to be broken down into individual boxes, pieces and parts were
removed through the crew door.
Next the team had to replace the C-17’s unusable landing
gear. Their solution was a flatbed trailer, crane and railroad
The aircraft was lifted with the crane, inches at a time, and
wood was placed under the nose to support it. The team backed the
flatbed tractor trailer under the nose and removed the wood. Straps
were tied to the trailer and passed through the pilot’s
windows and open doors to secure the aircraft onto the truck.
The team assembled metal airfield matting provided by Army
engineers to roll the aircraft onto the runway. The Army engineers
also provided two bulldozers and the flatbed to drag the aircraft
back onto the runway to a parking ramp.
“Once again, we had great cooperation between the Air
Force and Army here,” said Army Col. Michael Flanagan, 18th
Engineer Brigade and Task Force Sword commander. “We worked
together as a team to get a job done in one night that many people
thought would take four days. This is the best cooperative effort
between the Air Force and Army that I have seen in my 26-year
Colonel Jones, knowing the priority was getting the runway open,
orchestrated the two bulldozers, the flatbed and a ring of people
around the aircraft. They used hand signals and walkie-talkies as
they inched the aircraft down the runway through three 90-degree
turns to its parking spot.
“We had to get this runway open and get A-10 (Thunderbolt
IIs) in the air to provide close air support for Soldiers on the
ground,” Colonel Jones said.
“Everyone came together to make suggestions and form a
workable plan to help get the C-17 off the active runway and resume
normal flying operations in minimal time,” said Brig. Gen.
Bruce E. Burda, 455th Air Expeditionary Wing commander. “I am
extremely proud of the way our Airmen, Soldiers and civilians came
together, devised a solution to this unique challenge, and safely
made it happen to quickly restore airfield operations.”
The aircraft is assigned to Charleston Air Force Base, S.C. [ANN
Salutes Capt. Mark D. Gibson, 455th Air Expeditionary Wing Public