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NEWS | July 18, 2018

JB Charleston’s C-17 demonstration pilots showcase capabilities worldwide

By Airman 1st Class Helena Owens Joint Base Charleston Public Affairs

Picture this: the sounds of jets roaring past, smells of grilled food filling the air and the sight of the United States military branches showcasing their capabilities in the air and on the ground. Air show season is well underway and Westover Air Reserve Base, Massachusetts, took the opportunity to showcase to the public how they defend the nation by inviting Joint Base Charleston’s C-17 demonstration pilot team as well as others to perform in the Great New England Air Show.

“This is our third air show this summer and we have a couple more coming up,” said U.S. Air Force Capt. Brad Polender, 15th Airlift Squadron flight commander. “We perform about one to two times a month depending on the needs and manning available.”

Joint Base Charleston’s C-17 demonstration pilot team performs at air shows around the world. They demonstrate the various abilities the C-17 has including extended range tanks allowing it to fly all over the world with the ability to refuel in flight, minimum use of the runway to get in and out of austere locations quickly, reverse capability allowing it to land on any surface safely and the ability to hold over 170,000 pounds of cargo.

“We transport anything America needs to anywhere in the world,” said Polender. “We provide the global reach necessary to help people around the world and to get the warfighters where they need to be.”

Becoming a C-17 demo pilot, requires extra qualifications and training. There are academic classes needed to learn the regulations specifically for demo pilots. The pilots have to practice quite a few times in a simulator before going out and flying with the squadron commander for his or her certification. Then the group and wing commander interview the pilots and from there pass their selections up to Air Mobility Command for final approval.

“The demo team consists of six pilots and four loadmasters,” said Polender. “The certification process for the whole team took about six months to complete.”

Pilots are not the only necessary personnel required to showcase the capabilities of the C-17. The demo team has a maintenance crew who travels along with them, ensuring operations run smoothly and efficiently.

“When we are at a demonstration site and the jet breaks, I’m the only one there to fix it,” said U.S. Air Force Staff Sgt. Lance Wright, 437th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron flying crew chief. “I coordinate with the aircrew to determine the status of the aircraft and what parts or personnel are necessary to fix the jet. I am the liaison between maintenance operations and the aircrew itself.”

Although the work is hard and tiring, the aircrew said they enjoy what they do and are proud to showcase the abilities of their aircraft to the community.

“I think it’s very important to come out and show the community some of the jobs we do,” said Polender. “I think any Air Force base will find it hard to be effective in its mission if they don’t have the consent of the public around them. I enjoy coming out and showing the taxpayers exactly what they are supporting."