HNL RareBirds was privileged to be aboard one of two C-17A Globemaster IIIs of the 535th Airlift Squadron this morning, in an air drop demonstration. The flight took us from HIK to the Pohakuloa Range on the Big Island, where each C-17 dropped two pallets to ground forces below in support of the RIMPAC 2010 exercise.
Members of Hawai‘i's social media community were invited by Pacific Air Forces to be aboard the Boeing-built cargo jets.
05-5151 and 05-5152 "The Spirit of 'Go For Broke'" were the two C-17As used in today's flight under the call-sign "Lava 30 Flight". The 535th AS is the active-duty associate squadron to the Hawai‘i Air National Guard's 204th AS. I was assigned to 05-5152, flying as "Lava31", and assigned to seat R9.
The two cargo pallets that would be air dropped over Pohakuloa. The loadmasters on the cargo ramp door are checking the rigging of the chute system that will extract the pallets from the C-17.
I was selected to sit in the jumpseat behind our flight crew of Captains Partridge and Hamilton in "Lava31" during the departure from HNL's Runway 8R. As advertised, we were wheels up in a few thousand feet of runway. Our departure was under a light shower, and the sun rising over the Ko‘olau mountains and clouds.
We flew in formation with "Lava32" ahead of us, with Maui's Haleakalā off 32's left wing.
As we approached the drop zone, CMSGT Orrie opened the rear cargo doors, and we were able to see the Kona coast as we made our way toward the Pohakuloa training range. Once over our drop zone, the first chute was deployed to create the force to pull the pallets out. Above is one of our two pallets sliding down the cargo deck's rails and rollers as a drag chute pulls it out of "Lava31". The training range is located about 5,000 feet above sea level, and we made our drops about 500 feet above ground.
We made a few circuits over Pohakuloa watching "Lava32" make its drop, before we both landed at KOA (above) for a 15 minute break, before returning to HIK. We also had our lunches that we purchased from the Air Force.
During the flight back to HIK, we were also treated to an intercept by four F-16s. Since I was seated toward the center of the C-17, this was the only F-16 I saw.
After the intercept, we made our way back to HIK, landing on HNL's Runway 8L. Our taxi back to HIK was a bit slow, as we got caught in the mid-morning departure rush at HNL.
It was an amazing experience! It's not everyday where civilians get to ride on a C-17. It was not the norm, since we were seated sideways, and there are no windows. The professionalism of the air crews demonstrated why our air force is top notch. Boeing has definitely built one great and tough aircraft as well.
HNL RareBirds extends a huge mahalo to Pacific Air Forces, the 15th Wing, and the 535thAS for your service to our country and the opportunity to be on the flight!