C-130 flight promotes greater understanding of civilian/military flying environment

  • Published
  • By Staff Sgt. Trevor Saylor
  • 934th Airlift Wing Public Affairs
Flying in and out of the Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport  (MSP) can be a challenge, given how much traffic regularly goes in and out of what is the 16th busiest airport in North America. The operation is made even more challenging when military aircraft are added to the mix of the hundreds of commercial airlines arriving and departing daily.

In an effort to promote greater synergy and cohesion between civilian air traffic controllers at MSP and the 934th Airlift Wing, the 96th Airlift Squadron conducted a two-stage information-sharing program. The first half was in April, when a group of 96th AS members toured the facilities at MSP and gained an appreciation of what the air traffic controllers go through in their daily operations. The second half was conducted on May 6, as the civilians got a tour of the facilities at the 96th AS and were given the opportunity to fly on a C-130 training mission to Fort McCoy, Wis. During the flight, they had a chance to interact with aircrew members over the intercom system as well as view flight operations close up in the cockpit of a C-130.

Jenny Nietfeld, an air traffic controller at MSP, said that the biggest thing she gained from the experience was a sense of perspective. The C-130 operates differently than other aircraft they deal with, and it helps to know how the aircraft operates when she relays instructions from her tower. "Also, we better understand the performance characteristics of the aircraft that the Reservists are flying now," she added.

The operations manager at the MSP tower, Glen Hansmann, said that a better understanding ultimately benefits both parties equally. "There will be more compassion when things don't go exactly as planned," Hansmann said. "That will allow us to manage the airspace better and more efficiently for a long time."  Hansmann said if he had the chance to fly on the C-130 again he would definitely do so.

Captain Brandon Schrader,  96th AS pilot, who also works as a civilian airline pilot, led the way in putting the event together, and was very pleased with the results. The biggest goal, Schrader said, was to pass along information so the air traffic controllers could see the in-flight workload in the C-130; it's much different than that on a civilian flight, and has a larger crew. "The best part," Schrader said, "was being able to open their eyes to what we are doing during a flight." Captain Schrader hopes to do such a flight on a bi-annual basis at minimum, as the mission and training requirements of the 96th AS evolve.