Ramstein pulls off rapid aircraft swap

Capt. Erin Dorrance
Kaiserslautern American

It was March 23, and 47 aeromedical evacuation patients, including three critical care patients, were ready for a flight on a C-17 Globemaster en route to Andrews Air Force Base, Md., when they were told the plane was broken.

Ramstein averaged 15,000 aeromedical evacuation flights in 2006. Highly-skilled aircrews and aeromedical evacuation teams ensure these flights operate smoothly, quickly and comfortably for the patients. But, what happens when one of these planes break? 

***image1***On that day, team Ramstein pulled together to offload all the patients and began configuring another C-17 with litter stanchions, electrical wiring and oxygen equipment. They also swapped all the medical equipment from the broken C-17 to the new one.  The crew checked all the equipment and gave a thumbs-up for the mission.

Normally, it takes a crew two to three hours to set up for an aeromedical evacuation flight, said Capt. Jason Nafts, 86th Aeromedical Evacuation Squadron flight nurse, who helped with the aircraft swap.

“Thanks to teamwork from several Ramstein agencies, we pulled off an aircraft swap in just under an hour,” said Captain Nafts. 

“Seeing this all come together in such a short period of time was an awesome experience,” said Capt. Janita Mastin, 86th AES flight clinical coordinator, who was also involved in the aircraft swap.

Not only did the aeromedical evacuation personnel on the original flight help out, but the aircrews, maintenance, in-flight kitchen and the 435th Contingency Aerospace Staging Facility scrambled out to the scene to ensure the patients landed safely at Andrews nine hours later.