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D.C. Air Guard Unit Flies New 737s

By Master Sgt. Bob Haskell, USA
Special to American Forces Press Service

ANDREWS AIR FORCE BASE, Md., Jan. 14, 2004 – It would be hard to pick out pilots David Morales or John Moring III in a crowd most days when they are flying for the District of Columbia Air National Guard. That's just the way they like it. They wear civilian shirts, ties and slacks so they will not draw attention to themselves as United States military officers in potentially dangerous parts of the world.

Click photo for screen-resolution image
The Bosnian capital of Sarajevo has been one of the recent stops for one of the District of Columbia Air National Guard's new Boeing 737 airplanes, called C-40s in Air Force terminology. The unit is based at Andrews Air Force Base, Md. (Photo by Master Sgt. Bob Haskell, USA

(Click photo for screen-resolution image);high-resolution image available.

The white jets with an American flag painted on the tail and the Minuteman -- the National Guard's symbol -- painted on the main wingtips are nearly new Boeing 737s, and they represent a quantum leap into the 21st century for this Air Guard squadron, part of the D.C. Air Guard's 113th Wing, which has a unique mission.

Flying members of Congress and other dignitaries doing their government's business to some out-of-the-way places is how the squadron earns its keep, and now it has the airplanes to keep up with the Joneses the active Air Force and most commercial airlines.

The two modern 737s, C-40s in military nomenclature, have replaced older 727 model 100s that the squadron flew long and hard for about 17 years before they began flying the 737s in October 2002, within 30 days of their arrival. The squadron expects to receive its third 737 in August.

There are a lot more differences than just the numbers, explained Morales and Moring, both lieutenant colonels, during a Thanksgiving Day flight from Macedonia to the United States. Maj. Scott Yackley was the aircraft commander.

"Range and capability are the big advantages that these twin-engine 737s, which where built in 2001, have over the three-engine 727s that were built in 1963," said Morales, the squadron's chief pilot and a 737 captain for United Airlines.

In short, they fly farther and they have more state-of-the-art safety features than the biggest of the planes that the squadron used to fly.

The 737s can fly from Washington to Moscow, a distance of 4,250 miles, or from Honolulu to Washington, without having to stop for fuel, Morales explained. They can stay aloft for about 10 hours at a time.

The old 727s, which could fly for about five hours at a time, had to be refueled in Newfoundland and Ireland during a routine flight to Germany.

On average, according to squadron members, the 737s can carry a full fuel load of 63,000 pounds and burn it at a rate of about 6,000 pounds per hour. The 727s carried a maximum fuel load of 56,000 pounds and burned an average of 10,000 pounds per hour.

The new planes also are easier to maintain, because parts are more accessible everywhere in the world, Moring pointed out. They're also safer to fly, he added, because they have modern technology, including an Enhanced Ground Proximity Warning System and the Global Positioning System.

"We have worldwide communications because of satellite links," Moring said. "Someone on the ground knows what this airplane is doing all the time. A text data phone lets us communicate from anywhere in the world. Safety-wise, that's a major plus."

Flying safely is a paramount concern for the squadron that includes U.S. Speaker of the House Dennis Hastert and U.S. Sen. John Warner among its frequent flyers and that flies to such remote places as Bosnia in the Balkans and Namibia in southwestern Africa.

The 737s have significantly changed the way the squadron employs the biggest airplanes in its fleet, Morales explained.

"With the 727s, we flew about 80 percent of our missions within the continental United States," he said. With the 737s, he explained, the unit flies about 80 percent of its missions outside the United States.

The new planes have also enhanced the perception about the squadron's abilities to fly its passengers in style, acknowledged Col. Linda McTague, the 201st's former commander, who in December assumed command of the entire 113th Wing.

The squadron no longer stands out because it is flying some of the oldest commercial airplanes in the military's inventory, she said. The 201st blends in with its military colleagues, such as the 89th Airlift Wing at Andrews, because it is flying some of the newest.

"When you can fly the most state-of-the-art, brand-new airplanes that are available, you have a lot of credibility with people," McTague said. "We're not looked upon as flying old, worn-out airplanes. We're flying the same kind of C- 40s that the active duty (force) has. I think that has increased our visibility as well as our credibility.

"I think it's a big morale boost for the folks in the unit to have first- generation equipment, vs. old stuff," she added.

(Army Master Sgt. Bob Haskell is assigned to the National Guard Bureau.)

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