(From left) The C-21A, the smallest aircraft the 76th Airlift Squadron operates, the C-20A (which was replaced by C-20Hs in 2002) and the C-40B, a remodeled Boeing 737.
Three different types of aircraft, housed in a unique Cold-War era building on the back side of Ramstein’s flight line, are what the 76th Airlift Squadron uses to launch missions in just about every direction.
“We have three types of aircraft all in the same squadron,” said Lt. Col. Gregory Clark, 76th AS director of operations. “With these aircraft we conduct DV airlift, special cargo missions as well as aeromedical evacuations.”
The smallest plane the 76th AS operates is the C-21A Learjet. The squadron’s 13 C-21s include a crew of two pilots and can carry eight passengers.
“The C-21 is the workhorse of special airlift missions,” said 1st Lt. Scott Carroll, 76th AS C-21 pilot.
The squadron’s C-21s, most popularly associated with DV airlift, flew 80 aeromedical evacuations in 2005, said 1st Lt. Taylor Johnston, 76th AS C-21 pilot. The planes are always on AE standby and traverse Europe and Africa.
Several pilots choose the C-21 after completing undergraduate pilot training because of the opportunities the tour provides to young pilots.
“C-21s grow seasoned pilots,” said Colonel Clark. “We take people out of pilot training with zero (flying) hours and depend on them to fly critical care patients and four-star generals to austere airfields around the world.”
Pilots who do not have the opportunity to fly C-21s after finishing undergraduate pilot training can choose to take a “white jet tour,” which pilots refer to as a special duty assignment flying aircraft not considered a “major weapon system.” The tour lasts two years with the opportunity to extend one year, said Lieutenant Carroll.
Other white jet tours are only available for pilots who have completed tours in major weapon systems.
Capt. Sean Townsend, 76th AS C-20H pilot, has flown C-20s for the past 10 months after flying C-5s for several years. He said he chose to fly C-20s for the change of pace and for a chance to see Europe.
The 76th operates two C-20H Gulfstream IVs, that have a five-member aircrew to include two pilots, one flight engineer, one radio operator and a flight attendant. The plane carries 12 passengers and its primary mission is DV airlift.
“The C-20 is like flying a Cadillac,” said Captain Townsend. “They are fast and smooth.”
The C-20s are larger than C-21s, which enable flight attendants and communications systems operators to support the passengers and crews can fly longer without refueling, he said.
The largest of the squadron’s aircraft is the C-40B, which is a Boeing 737 that has been remodeled, said Capt. Kris Uber, 76th AS C-40 pilot.
Some of the upgrades include specialized equipment that allows the plane to fly in low visibility and with auto landing capability, he said.
As Captain Townsend refers to the C-20 as a Cadillac, Captain Uber laughs and compares his plane to a Bentley.
The plane has a flight crew of 10 to include two pilots, two flight crew chiefs, two communication system operators and four flight attendants. In hostile locations, the crew also includes four Security Forces’ Ravens. In addition to the crew, the plane can carry 26 passengers, he said.
Captain Uber, a former KC-10 pilot who chose to fly C-40s to travel around the world, said the plane averages four to five missions a month with missions lasting an average of seven days.
Due to the larger size of the C-20 and C-40 aircraft, the 76th AS’s 16 flight attendants are able to board as crewmembers.
“Our primary mission is the safety of our passengers,” said Master Sgt. Sandy Buffington, 76th AS flight attendant.
Sergeant Buffington, an 11-year flight attendant, said flight attendants attend training in emergency procedures, operating equipment, aircraft systems and culinary skills.
“I always wanted to travel and I love cooking,” said Sergeant Buffington. “This career was a perfect fit for me.”
The 76th AS flight attendants are not the only ones cooking in the squadron’s kitchen. The squadron shares the kitchen with the U.S. Army Priority Air Transport which also has a few flight attendants that fly on the Army’s single C-20E.
The Army detachment includes 20 people who fly an average of 10 missions per month, said Maj. Alvin Godwin, USAPAT C-20E pilot. The flight crew includes two pilots, a flight engineer and two flight attendants.
USAPAT’s primary mission is DV airlift and most of their missions are flown between Europe and the U.S., he said.
Since USAPAT and the 76th AS have a common mission, they often pick up missions for each other, said Major Godwin.
“We are happy to be here working hand-in-hand with the Air Force,” he said.
Editor’s note: Next week, read about the C-21 aircraft and its aeromedical evacuation mission.