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NEWS | Aug. 22, 2017

Charleston C-17 flies on "Dark Side of the Moon"

By Michael Dukes 315th Airlift Wing Public Affairs

An aircrew of Citizen Airmen from Joint Base Charleston, South Carolina had the opportunity Aug. 21 to fly a routine C-17 Globemaster III training mission under no so routine conditions – flying in the path of a total solar eclipse.

During the standard training flight, the Air Force Reserve, comprised of 317th and 701st Airlift Squadron members, practiced “time on target” tactics as they “caught” the eclipse shadow just outside of Spartanburg, S.C. and traveled along the shadow’s path to back to Charleston.

“We were doing local training doing low altitude flying and approaches in Charleston, then went to North Field, our auxiliary field for assault landings and other tactical training we do there,” said Lt. Col. John Robinson, 315th Operations Group deputy commander and aircraft commander for this mission. 

They then met up with a KC-135 from the Ohio Air National Guard over North Carolina. With all their scheduled training tasks complete, they were ready to join up with the rapidly approaching eclipse and make their way back to Charleston.

All this training combined with meeting up with the eclipse allowed us to demonstrate our expertise of executing time over target to get this eclipse coming at us at over 1,400 miles per hour,” Robinson said. “We have to time where we’re going to be, when we’re going to be there all in order to get it to come together at one point.”

The eclipse shadow was traveling at 1,488 mph while the C-17 was flying at 230.15 mph.

“We had the very unique experience of flying because we were the only airplane from Joint Base Charleston in the air during the eclipse,” said Lt. Col. Jason Williams, 317th AS pilot. “it just so happened to work out perfectly that after our air refueling track we go onto a section of South Carolina where the eclipse followed an entire corridor all the way back to Charleston. “ 

“We were in the eclipse about 2 and a-half-minutes the entire time,” Williams said. “I was actually surprised; I thought the aircraft would be darker inside but you could actually see a lot of light. It seemed like almost twilight out there. It was really neat to be out there flying. In fact I really didn’t look on the calendar. I planned this mission to get some training done—I didn’t even think about the eclipse, built when it go there we made this whole plan to incorporate that within our day.”

Grits 03 was the call sign for the day, and Grits 03 was lucky enough to be out flying,” Williams added. “We got really lucky today.”