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Mon, May 01, 2006

USAF Loadmasters Use New Parachute Jettison Device

An emergency parachute jettison device was used for the first time during a Joint Forcible Entry Exercise at Pope AFB, April 25.

Loadmasters from Little Rock Air Force Base, Ark., and Dyess AFB, Texas, participated in the exercise. Chief Master Sgt. Steven Pyszka and Master Sgt. Lee McDaniel, loadmaster training instructors from Air Mobility Command, came to ensure the device was properly set up and operated.

The new jettison device has been in development since 1997. It was created to quickly and safely jettison malfunctioning parachutes during an airdrop delivery of heavy equipment.

“The capability of jettisoning extraction parachutes when they are outside the aircraft before the load has been extracted is important,” Sergeant McDaniel said. “A parachute malfunction risks the safety of the crew and the aircraft.”

Sergeant McDaniel referenced a crash that occurred almost 19 years ago. A C-130 Hercules aircrew crashed at Fort Bragg, N.C., in July 1987 as a result of a parachute malfunction. The crewmen were doing a low-altitude parachute extraction system demonstration in front of more than 4,000 spectators.

During this demonstration, the aircrew was attempting to drop a load about five feet above the ground. The load was supposed to be dragged out of the aircraft's rear door by a parachute and then the plane was supposed to ascend. Because of a parachute malfunction, that was not the case.

Four Airmen and one Soldier died. Two Airmen were injured. The sergeant said if the crew had the jettison device, they might not have crashed.

According to Chief Pyszka, when a heavy equipment load is set to drop and that fails, the current protocol is for the loadmaster to take a knife to it and try to cut the lines by hand to release the load out of the aircraft.

“This is more dangerous because the load could break away while the loadmaster is cutting the lines,” said Chief Pyszka. That kind of emergency response has been done a number of times during heavy-equipment airdrop missions. The jettison device is designed to initiate a quick release of the load, in the event of a malfunction, at the flip of a switch."

Chief Pyszka said the new jettison device should be operational next year. [ANN Salutes Senior Airman Cassandra Locke, 43rd Airlift Wing Public Affairs]



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