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NC-111 Flies on the HC130-J "Combat King" During a Simulated Search and Rescue Mission

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Cadets on the ramp of the HC130-J flying 400 feet above the Gulf of Mexico. Photo Credit: Maj Sherry Haskell, CAP (click image to view full size)
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Cadets Search for Missing Vessel from the Aircraft's Open Ramp


The day began at Moody AFB in the briefing room, where cadets went through a 20 minute briefing on a simulated AFRCC mission that was assigned to the 71st Rescue Squadron. A private sailing vessel, the S.S. Minnow, was quickly taking on water. Billionaire Thurston Howell III informed the U.S. Coast Guard of his position and that he was equipped with a life raft and plenty of sea dye. 


After the briefing, cadets watched the engine start-up, then boarded the HC130-J (call sign "King 15") for take-off. Two cadets rode in the cockpit on take-off and two for landing, with every cadet having an opportunity to spend some time in the cockpit. While in the cockpit, each person wore a headset in order to communicate with the crew and learn the search tactics from the point of view of the pilots. They practiced spotting the target and guiding the pilot to the desired location. 


Meanwhile, in the back of the aircraft, groups of four learned how the rescue crews search for a target from the open ramp. Tethered to the plane with a harness, they sat on the end of the ramp to search for the target, flying at 400 feet above the Gulf of Mexico. Although it looked and felt like you could reach out and touch the ocean, a 40’-50’ fishing boat looked miniature. Thankfully the green dye was fairly easy to spot as it covered a large area and contrasted with the water. 


When an object was found, the pilots were notified and they pushed a button to mark the GPS coordinates to circle back around and look for the missing object. 


It was an amazing learning experience for the 111th Search and Rescue Composite Squadron to learn about ocean search and rescue techniques from one of two active duty squadrons in the country that fly the HC130-J. 


After the flight, the squadron headed over for a tour of the control tower and the RAPCON (Radar Approach Control System) where they watched the A10s - including "Tiger01" piloted by the Wing Commander Col Jennifer Short, taking off and landing, as the sounds of the A10s 30mm cannons cycled behind at the Grand Bay Bombing Range. It was an unforgettable trip for all involved.