By MSGT JULIE BRIDEN-GARCIA, 136TH AIRLIFT WING (TEXAS AIR NATIONAL GUARD)
The 136th Airlift Wing (136 AW) reached 200,000 mishap-free flying hours, Oct. 21, 2022, achieving a historic milestone on a journey that began June 6, 1965.
The title of mishap-free, also referred to as zero Class A mishaps, is not an easy designation to earn, explained Col Matt Groves, 136th Airlift Wing Commander.
“Hundreds of thousands of maintenance hours, tens of thousands of missions, and millions of individual critical supporting actions were required,” he said. “This accomplishment is truly a testament to the collaborative hard work of those who served before us, as well as the dedication to safety they instilled through leadership and by example.”
According to the Air Force Safety Center, Class A mishaps result in a direct cost totaling $2 million or more, fatality or permanent total disability, or destruction of a Department of Defense aircraft; having zero Class A mishaps for an extended time is a difficult achievement to attain, according to Maj Nathan Eldredge, C-130J pilot with the 181st Airlift Squadron, a unit of the 136th Airlift Wing.
“As a former Safety Officer, I understand how difficult it is for a single unit to have a long span of no Class A mishaps record,” Eldredge said. “It is an incredible achievement and unlikely to be matched by any other unit.”
Eldredge, the pilot of the plane that reached the final 200,000th hour, said he was unaware they would hit the milestone that day and was surprised when the crew was greeted after landing.
“[This milestone] is a testament to the Airmanship of the aircrews from the 136 AW going back multiple decades,” he said.
TSgt Steven Law, 136th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron and Crew Chief of that same aircraft, said he is proud it was his plane that earned this honor, also noting it takes a cohesive teamwork of aircrew and maintenance crews working together.
“It’s Ops [operations], the crew chiefs, and maintenance who have done their job very well over several years,” he said. “I’m not the only one flying; I’m not the only one taking care of the aircraft. This milestone says a lot about the team we have here that we can pull this off for so long.”
Col Dave DeMarque, 136th Operations Group Commander agreed, acknowledging this success was possible because of generations of Airmen who have demanded safety, excellence, and professionalism.
“The monumental achievement is no surprise to the professional men and women of the 136th Operations Group,” he said. “Safety is always at the forefront of aircrew decision-making. Flying isn’t inherently dangerous but is ruthlessly unforgiving if one is complacent or careless.”
Since June 6, 1965, the 136 AW has been involved in supporting war and peacetime operations worldwide. During the past 57 years, the wing has flown multiple different airframes, including the KC-97, C-130B, C-130H, and now the C-130J models, all while rigorously ensuring the safety of the crew and their aircraft.
In the C-130 Hercules world, the airframe sustains a high ops-tempo supporting worldwide deployments and humanitarian efforts, and the success of a flying unit is a testament to the positive working relationship that exists between the maintainers and the operations group.
“Even though this 200,000 flying hours milestone was sealed in a single flight on Friday, Oct. 21, 2022, it took every 136th Airlift Wing crewmember contributing to a culminated effort for this to happen,” Groves said. “We look forward to another 57 years of safe flying in the making.”
The Texas Air National Guard 136th Airlift Wing’s mission is to provide highly trained, equipped, and motivated military forces for worldwide combat and peacetime tasking supporting the State of Texas and the Nation.