Hickam welcomes second C-17
By William Cole
Advertiser Military Writer
By William Cole
HICKAM AIR FORCE BASE — A repair delay of about two hours over a broken computer meant that Hawai'i's first C-17 cargo carrier was scratched from a mudslide relief mission Monday to the Philippines.
It was exactly the kind of humanitarian relief that military officials say the usually reliable and extremely versatile airlifters are well suited for, so it was a disappointment for Hickam.
But as the second of eight C-17 Globemaster IIIs arrived yesterday, officials said it was better to be safe as the Hawai'i squadron is built up and becomes more capable.
"Timing is everything," said Col. William "Goose" Changose, commander of the 15th Airlift Wing. "It is not worth (the Pacific Air Forces' or U.S. Pacific Command's) publicity to delay a mission just so we could fly it."
A replacement "aircraft propulsion" computer — one of two on board the $200 million jet — was flown in about an hour after a replacement C-17 from Charleston Air Force Base in South Carolina was used to fly 30,000 pounds of relief supplies out of Hickam for the Philippines, officials said.
That cargo carrier left Hickam at 10:25 p.m., officials said. The replacement computer arrived at about 11:30 p.m. and would have taken an hour to install.
The computers are used to monitor such things as fuel flow and engine performance, and one is a backup.
"If we had been downrange, we could have continued the mission, and I have every confidence the probabilities would have been just fine," Changose said. "But experience has told us it's like going on a major road trip without a spare tire, and that's what this really comes down to — a spare tire for our engines."
About 500 mostly regular full-time Air Force troops as well as Hawai'i Air National Guard members were on hand for the 12:45 p.m. arrival of Hawai'i's second C-17 at the aircraft position of honor outside the base operations building, which has been in continuous use since 1939.
The as-yet unnamed aircraft, the second C-17 to bear the Hawai'i-inspired yellow-black-and-red tail marking of waves and shark's teeth, was blessed by kahu Ray Ganotise.
About 30 civic leaders and two Hawai'i Medal of Honor recipients made the trip out to Long Beach, Calif., on Monday so they could board the new C-17 for its flight to Hawai'i yesterday.
"I'm sure the community leaders that joined me on this inaugural flight were absolutely impressed with the tremendous capabilities of this aircraft just on that short 5 1/2-hour flight," said Maj. Gen. Robert G.F. Lee, head of the Hawai'i National Guard. "Not only will we use C-17s in a joint manner to support all of our military forces, but in many other responsibilities in homeland security. Our response in the state of Hawai'i is going to be so much improved."
The regular Air Force troops and the members of the Hawai'i Air Guard fly and maintain the aircraft in a relatively new kind of partnership that is being replicated in the Air Force.
One of those who enjoyed the flight was retired Marine Corps Sgt. Maj. Allan Kellogg, 63, of Kailua, who received a Medal of Honor for his actions in Vietnam in 1970 when he threw himself on a grenade, saving about six of his fellow Marines.
"It was quite impressive," Kellogg said of the new aircraft. "The (Boeing) factory was really impressive."
Kellogg said he's more familiar with C-130 Hercules, C-141 Starlifters, and C-5 Galaxies from his service days. "C-5s, they can do a pretty good job, too, but this one here is all-around, (including) short runway and takeoff," Kellogg said of the C-17.
Medal of Honor recipient Shizuya Hayashi also was on the flight, and Barney Hajiro, another Medal of Honor reciient, was at Hickam to welcome the new aircraft and crew, officials said.
Two C-17s from Charleston were training in Kona when the call came for the mission to the Philippines and the computer problem was found with Hawai'i's first C-17. About 30,000 pounds of tents, cots, food and water were loaded for a seven-hour flight to Guam to pick up two forklifts, then another 3 1/2 hours to the Philippines.
Two mixed Hickam and Hawai'i Air Guard crews flew the Charleston aircraft with 10 "combat mobility element" airmen from Hickam.
Maj. Robert Chow Hoy, 40, a C-17 pilot who works full time for the Air Guard, got to be at the controls part of the way from California in the newest C-17. The Mililani man had flown about four times each into Iraq and Afghanistan on C-17s.
"The C-17 is where the action's at. You can't ask for a better airlifter," he said. "Hopefully, when we get our eight jets we'll be in the fight as well with the other active-duty units."
Reach William Cole at firstname.lastname@example.org.