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732nd AMS Airmen prevent mission freeze
Airman 1st Class Jesse Stewart controls a global ground support aircraft deicer to remove snow from a C-17 Globemaster III Jan. 12, 2012, Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson, Alaska. The deicing season usually lasts from October to April. Stuart is a C-17 crew chief with the 703rd Aircraft Maintenance Squadron and hails from Brilliant, Ohio. (U.S. Air Force photo/Staff Sgt. Cynthia Spalding)
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Deicer keeps the mission from freezing

Posted 1/23/2012   Updated 1/27/2012 Email story   Print story


by Air Force Staff Sgt. Robert Barnett and Staff Sgt. Cynthia Spalding
673d Air Base Wing Public Affairs

1/23/2012 - JOINT BASE ELMENDORF-RICHARDSON, Alaska -- A large cloud hovers in the sky, darkening as the low temperature causes a unique crystalline structure to form, and drops it towards the land below. The snowflake is joined by billions of other snowflakes, one tiny piece of a blizzard, common in this region in the winter.

The snowflake lands on the wing of a cargo plane on the flight line of Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson, Alaska. There it sticks and joins the growing ice. If it stayed there, it would throw off the aerodynamics of the plane. That would put the plane, the pilot and the military and families on the base and potentially the local area in danger.
Fortunately, aircraft maintainers of the 732nd Air Mobility Squadron anticipate and regularly inspect the aircraft for ice. They have Global Ground Support Aircraft Deicers to solve the problem and have been trained in a specialized simulator to help operate it.

"We were the first military entity in the world to purchase the simulator in 2009," said Ken Culberson, Air Force Engineering and Technical Services, head of the deicing simulator training and native of Sikes, Ill. "Our mission is to keep our technicians in a heightened state of proficiency and to initially familiarize maintainers with the controls without having to risk a half-a-million dollar truck."

Aircraft maintainers de-ice many different types of aircraft from small commercial passenger aircraft up to the C-5, he said. The base has approximately 22 deicers that see a lot of use during the winter season. The simulator reduces the amount of initial training done on the truck and helps reduce maintenance costs. It enables familiarization prior to using the truck to minimize risk to those aircraft and the truck while operating, he said.

"The average scenario runs for maybe 15 minutes, thus far we've put probably 250 hours on it," Culberson said. "That's a lot of scenarios and a lot of wear and tear that didn't go on the trucks. It helps technicians maintain muscle memory for the various controls. It's also very useful in initial familiarization of trainees with the controls of the deicer. We can train with it year-around."

Airmen have traveled from as far as Yokota Air Force Base, Japan, to train on the simulator, he said.

"The simulator shows you what the controls do, you develop muscle memory for how you move it around," said Air Force Tech. Sgt. Matthew Wheeler, 176th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron hydraulics technician and native of Shreveport, La. "The biggest thing is the intimidation factor; it's a big truck. I'd rather someone who has never done it before go through the simulation before using the actual deicer."

Coming soon, there will be a training video as well.

"The 732 AMS has been involved with the filming of an AMC aircraft deice training video which covers in-depth vehicle familiarization and aircraft deicing," said Lt. Col. Donald Kirkland, 732 AMS commander and native of Greenview, S.C., "Mr. Culberson wrote the script, demonstrated techniques and partnered with 3rd Wing, 176th Wing and 673d Air Base Wing Public Affairs videographers to film the training. This training video coupled with the use of the simulator will enhance deice vehicle knowledge and aircraft deicing."
Safety is the first priority of the training and the deicer, not only for the people and equipment, but for the environment.

When operating, they strive to balance conservation of fluid with a clean aircraft for safety of flight and environment, Culberson said.

"The de-ice trucks use two types of fluid; a propylene glycol and water mixture that is used to remove the snow, ice and frost, and an anti-icing fluid normally used directly after the application of the de-ice fluid," he said.

It is used during precipitation or anticipated precipitation to prevent further accumulation of snow or ice on the aircraft after the aircraft has been de-iced, said Culberson. The fluids are designed to come off during take-off so there is no risk of dripping while the aircraft flies overhead; in-flight devices protect the aircraft after that, he said.

"Without the fluids and trucks the mission during winter months would be greatly degraded and not nearly as safe," Culberson said. "If the need is there, no matter the weather, we're operating."

1/27/2012 6:37:19 PM ET
Thank you Mr. Rodgers for providing comments to this story. Please understand the intent of this article focused on the unit performing the deicing mission at the time the reporter was there. It was not intended to portray an all-inclusive story about everything and everyoneinvolved with the JBER deicing mission. We'd gladly entertain the idea of running a follow-up article on the training it takes to prepare and the support given in order for these Airmen and civilians to complete theirmission.Please contact the Arctic Warrior editor at 552-8918 or the CommandInformation chief at 552-2517 and we can discuss a follow-on story. I'm sureour cold winter will provide plenty more deicing missions before springarrives.
1/27/2012 11:01:09 AM ET
I contacted the public affairs office on 1232012 about this story and about how the facts were not correct. They assured me that a retraction would appear in this Fridays edition. After seeing that the title and the photo caption were the only changes made as of 1252012 I felt it was only proper to address my own rebuttal.The deicing mission here at JBER consists of several groups the main being the 703rd Deicing Section comprised of 13 civilian deicers who average any where from 10 to 30 years experience and two military supervisors. LRS which we wouldnt be able to complete our mission without there help in maintaining the deicer trucks the 525th and 90th fighter groups TA Red Flag as well as the 732nd. The deicing needs and procedures vary from aircraft to aircraft and how we perform these duties.The civilian deicers are the most knowledgeable and experienced group of people I have had the privilege and honor of knowing and working along side of. We are constantly off
Lynn Rogers, Elmendorf
1/26/2012 12:48:00 PM ET
No mention of the training these folks get in order to be qualified either. They certainly aren't trained at the 732 AMS...they don't own the one and only deice simulator on base.
1/25/2012 3:00:32 PM ET
No mention of the folks driving the truck though . . . planes sure didn't taxi around the deice truck . . . nor was there mention of the countless hours the LRS folks spend fixing the trucks as they are not the best compaired to those used at Ted Stevens - but hey it's a total team effort and we all know that Just trying to pass along some love.
Frosty, JBER
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