Published: Thursday, September 21, 2017 @ 4:55 AM
By: Barrie Barber - Staff Writer
WRIGHT-PATTERSON AIR FORCE BASE — With hurricanes pummeling the U.S. Gulf Coast and the Caribbean, C-17 transport jets have lifted off at Wright-Patterson headed to disaster zones to drop off troops and hundreds of tons of relief aid.
The Air Force Reserve 445th Airlift Wing flew nearly 200 passengers and 332 tons of cargo on a total of five missions to Florida, Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands after Hurricane Irma churned through the Atlantic and tore through the islands before slamming into Florida this month. Before the massive storm struck, a Wright-Patt C-17 Globemaster III picked up a helicopter in Florida and flew it to Georgia on another mission.
After Hurricane Harvey barreled into Texas and unleashed record rains that caused widespread flooding, displacing thousands, the wing flew three C-17 missions. The flights carried 130 passengers and 345 tons of cargo to the Lone Star state last month, according to Lt. Col. Cynthia Harris, wing spokeswoman.
The crews have hauled food, water, cots and equipment along with troops sent to the disaster zones.
“The relief efforts are actually going to take a while,” said Maj. Mike Shampine, a C-17 pilot and a 445th Airlift Wing flight operations officer at Wright-Patterson. “As more and more hurricanes (are) battering the area, we’re going to have to keep our resupply effort to get back up to speed.”
The airlift wing is on standby for possibly more relief flights if needed after Hurricane Maria churned into Puerto Rico as a Category 4 storm Wednesday. The last flight was Monday.
“’We actually have crews standing by basically waiting on a call to launch on short notice,” said Master Sgt. Todd Gnat, who works to coordinate missions.
The wing has canceled training and shuffled plane schedules to respond to the demand. Gnat said.
Crew members have asked to be part of the relief flights since Hurricane Harvey targeted Texas, officials said.
“As soon as people saw the hurricane coming in there, a lot of people called in ahead of time to volunteer their efforts,” Shampine said.
The Dayton Daily News and WHIO-TV reported on one of the relief flights to Homestead Air Reserve Base, Fla., last week.