Early Friday morning, I was given the opportunity to observe the dispatching of a group of A-10 Thunderbolt aircraft that were relocating from Korea to stateside.
The morning started early at 0030L at the ACC operations building at Hickam AFB. I was given a briefing by the Maj, Madson who showed me what essentially was a dispatch packet for the flight crews. the time spent on the packet was about 4 hours prep time. This included weather, fuels overflight notifications, clearances and coordination with tanker ops which was part of this package.
The flight called a "coronet" by flight planning, is estimated to take 9 hours with an arrival time of around 1535L time stateside. There was to be an initial uplift of 2000 lbs of fuel, and 4 scheduled air refueling en route. Weather for the package was excellent with some storm activity south of the islands and a line of clouds well north of the proposed flight route. The Tanker commander was also briefed. Their call sign for the flight would be "Adobe".
From Hawaii to the west coast of the U,.S. was actually very clear and dry. Refueling times were covered as well as aircraft lead and wingman formations, call sign for this flight is "Zesty". Communication "freqs" and take off procedures discussed. With this done, time to head out to the aircraft!
"Zesty's" A-10's were part of a group which is scheduled for an upgrade to the A-10C models with enhanced targeting and electronic link capabilities, so the squadron was relocating the aircraft back to the states for this. Originally this flight was for 7 aircraft, but due to various mechanical and technical problems, it was lowered to 4 aircraft (this would change once again closer to departure time).
I was allowed to head to the flight line but needed to remain in the mobile air ops van for safety reasons. As I got to the flight line, alot of activity was ensuing. Ground crews were shuttling between aircraft. Crews were dressed in their gear and seated in the aircraft performing pre-flight checks in the cockpit.
As the crews continued to prep, a call came over ground freq advising the AAC of a problem with one of the aircraft. Seems that there was a fuel quantity indicator which had an indifference of 500+ lbs. One of the pilot's requested from "Zesty's" flight leader, call sign "McGruff", to occupy the spare aircraft that was there. He was approved for the swap.
By the time the the pilot had switched aircraft, his "McGruff's" aircraft had too developed problems, so the flight lead bumped the other pilot out of the spare and took it for himself. So one of the crew had an extra day in Hawaii. This now brought the package down to 3 aircraft.
Because of the swap, the flight was delayed an additional 30 min beyond estimated departure time and this was relayed to the tanker commander. But within 20 minutes, the flight was ready to depart Hickam. Time now as 0300L (1300Z). With the A-10's leading and the tanker following minutes behind them, "Zesty" launched from HNL on a clear night via runway 8R heading stateside. Followed 9 minutes later by "Adobe", the KC-10 tanker aircraft.
Thanks to Maj. Madson, call sign "Maddog" and the ACC as well as the flightcrew members of 25th Fighter Squadron for allowing me to "tag" along and observe the operation. PILSUNG!