Three maintainers from Team March’s 452nd Aircraft Maintenance Squadron have been busy ensuring aircraft are mission ready, but you will not find them working under the warm and sunny skies at March Air Reserve Base.
These Traditional Reservists have been operating since October 2016 in temperatures as low as 11 degrees Fahrenheit at Ramstein Air Base, Germany. Their five-month mission – deicing aircraft prior to departure to ensure flight safety and efficiency.
“We are in direct support of Operation Freedom Sentinel, but we are also supporting aircraft that are part of other operations, including Operation Inherent Resolve,” said Staff Sgt. Ernesto Tarango, crew chief, 452nd AMXS, March ARB. “Our main mission is to deice aircraft before they depart to various locations, including downrange locations. We also support by helping perform maintenance operations while we are not deicing.”
The Citizen Airmen volunteered to be part of the Air Mobility Command-funded mission, explained Capt. Robert A. Bloom, March ARB’s former 452nd AMXS operations officer. The request for volunteers is sent annually via Air Force Reserve Command, depending on funding availability. While knowledge of deicing procedures can be trained upon arrival at Ramstein AB, eligible volunteers must be fully qualified in all other aspects of preferred airframes such as the C-17 Globemaster III and C-5 Galaxy.
"Deicing is a maintenance task that Airmen in sunny Southern California never typically get trained on,” said Bloom. “The 452nd [Maintenance Group] doesn't even own deicing equipment. So being selected to perform this mission for AMC is an opportunity for our 452nd maintainers to gain experience they would otherwise never receive, as well as provide an invaluable service to the Air Force."
“This is my first time assisting in this mission,” said Senior Airman Jose A. Agadier, crew chief, 452nd AMXS, March ARB. “This was actually my first time deicing aircraft considering I'm a [TR] stationed in Southern California, where we never see ice on our jets.”
Deicing is the removal of ice, snow, and frost from all exterior areas of an aircraft to ensure its safe operability. A deicing fluid, such as propylene glycol, is typically sprayed on the aircraft. According to a fact sheet by the Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association’s Air Safety Institute, without deicing treatment, ice accumulation is known to reduce aircraft lift and increase drag by up to 30 and 40 percent, respectively.
“Depending on conditions, the average time to deice an aircraft is 15 minutes,” said Tech Sgt. Darryl Oldfield, crew chief, 452nd AMXS, March ARB.” “However [this] can dramatically increase if there is a heavy layer of snow on the aircraft.”
“We [use] the Global 1800 and Extended Reach Global 2875 [to] deice,” said Agadier. “Each truck can hold up to about 25,000 gallons of a mix of heated glycol and water.”
A minimum of three personnel are required to deice an aircraft, with each Airman having a specific duty planned before arriving on the flight line, explained Agadier and Oldfield. Some duties include operating the deicing truck, boom, and having a chalk walker to keep a safe distance from the aircraft.
“I would volunteer to support and deice aircraft if asked again,” said Agadier. “I have enjoyed working side by side with our fellow Reservist deicing partners from Travis Air Force Base, California, and Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Washington, as well as our Ramstein AB enroute team. I will return to March ARB with sharpened skills as a maintainer for not only deicing aircraft, but assisting with flight line maintenance on real world missions.”
Agadier, Oldfield and Tarango have successfully deiced C-5 Galaxy, C-17 Globemaster III, KC-10 Extender, KC-135 Stratotanker, C-130 Hercules, and presidential support aircraft thus far. And the Team March Airmen look forward to any future volunteer deicing opportunities.