A Cedar Springs man and his crewmates were recognized last week by the Eighth Air Force for their handling of an aircraft emergency.
Capt. David Skelonc, of Cedar Springs, and the crew of SLAYR 21, from the 5th Bomb Wing, Minot Air Force Base, N.D., were presented with the 2010 Ira C. Eaker Outstanding Airmanship Award during an awards ceremony last Thursday, March 3, in Shreveport, Louisiana.
The Air Force said that Capt. Travis Thorpe, Capt. Dustin Faircloth, Capt. Phillip Demeter, Capt. Ian Barta, Capt. David Skelonc, 1st Lt. Corrine Hester and 1st Lt. Alex Brewster demonstrated outstanding airmanship while handling a significant B-52 in flight emergency on Oct. 26, 2010.
The mission occurred while deployed to Andersen Air Force Base, Guam, in support of a Pacific Air Forces Command continuous bomber presence mission. On takeoff, just seconds after the aircraft had broken ground, there was a loud bang and a catastrophic failure of one of the aircraft’s engines. An engine failure at this phase of the flight is dangerous because the aircraft is at its heaviest with fuel and ordnance, is low to the ground, and has not yet accelerated to a safe cruising speed. Reacting quickly, according to their training, the crew retracted the gear, kept the flaps extended for additional lift, and started engine inoperative climb procedures to 10,000 feet.
Analyzing the situation, it soon became apparent that there was more trouble than originally thought. An additional engine had failed and the crew found themselves with two engines out on the same wing. The Andersen AFB tower relayed that there were multiple aircraft parts on the runway indicating that the engine had disintegrated. SLAYR 21’s wingman, SLAYR 22, executed a rejoin and noticed that the last one third of one of the engines was missing.
The SLAYR 21 crew then performed multiple controllability checks to determine if the aircraft could be landed. Confirming that landing the aircraft was possible, the crew then finalized coordination on the landing procedures. During the approach, the crew noticed that yet another engine was having problems in that it was unresponsive and stuck at a high-thrust takeoff power setting. The crew discontinued their approach and reentered the holding pattern to evaluate how to deal with this additional problem.
The crew then executed another controllability check to determine how the aircraft would fly with this highly asymmetrical thrust. The crew noted the controllability impacts and conducted crew resource management procedures to mitigate the landing risks and began a 20-mile approach. Noticing severe drift during landing flare that threatened to put the aircraft off of the runway, they quickly shut down the engine stuck at the high power setting. The crew completed a safe landing and stopped straight ahead on the runway, saving the B-52.
The Ira Eaker award was one of two awards given out that evening.
“We are extremely proud to extend our congratulations to all of the winners; as always the competition was tough and truly reflected the outstanding accomplishments of our maintenance professionals and the airmanship of our warriors throughout the ‘Mighty Eighth,’” said Maj. Gen. Floyd Carpenter, Eighth Air Force commander.