139th News

139th Airlift Wing executes 41-hour sortie

  • Published
  • By Michael Crane
  • 139th Airlift Wing

The 139th Airlift Wing has set a new milestone by pushing the boundaries of the C-130H Hercules aircraft. From Feb. 13 - 15, multiple aircrews flew a mission in which the aircraft's cumulative flight time was 41.5 hours with the engines running continuously for 45 hours.

The first aircrew took off Tuesday morning from Rosecrans Air National Guard Base. Approximately 10 hours later, the crew landed back at Rosecrans for the first refuel. Three separate crews took turns operating the aircraft, each flying approximately 10 hours, with one crew completing two shifts. When the final crew landed Thursday morning, the aircraft's engines had been continually operating for 45 hours. 

“This mission tested the combination of max endurance concept with a rapid deployment and explosion into theater scenario,” said Lt. Col. Eric Rawlings, commander of the 139th Operations Group. “The max endurance piece was not so much with the crews this mission as it is with the aircraft since the profile has the engines running for 40 hours straight.”

The sheer duration of the mission necessitated three refuelings, carried out through a process known as 'hot refueling,' where the aircraft is replenished with fuel while the engines remain running. Master Sgt. Joshua Brown, fuels management superintendent of the 139th Logistics Readiness Squadron, said his team pumped 27,670 gallons of jet fuel into the aircraft over the duration of the mission.

Each crew was accompanied by two maintenance Airmen—a crew chief and an avionics specialist—highlighting the collaborative effort required to ensure the aircraft's operational readiness throughout the mission.

“This is a proof of concept to bring together different skills that will aid our warfighting capabilities,” said Capt. Albert Selanders, a pilot assigned to the Advanced Airlift Tactics Training Center and mission commander for the 41-hour sortie. The goal is to “keep the airplane running, [put] gas on it, [and] keep the mission going in the shortest amount of time possible.”

This ambitious endeavor aligns with the strategic vision outlined by Gen. Mike Minihan, commander of Air Mobility Command, for enhancing force projection capabilities, or Agile Combat Employment.

“[This] sortie is the first of many training scenarios that will test the 139th Airlift Wing’s capabilities,” said Col. Mark Ruehter, commander of the 139th Maintenance Group. “It is our goal to provide airlift capabilities anywhere, at any time, when answering the nation's call, and this is just the first step.”