a newspaper man adjusts his pen

Sunday, July 15, 2007

Prepared for flight

BURGETTSTOWN, Pa. – Flying at an altitude of just 650 feet, eight supply planes rumbled over a Hanover Township hillside in a matter of minutes during a practice run Saturday.
The trip, while brief, required many hours of planning. The mission, the first of its kind in this area, tested the skills of the 911th U.S. Air Force Reserve at Pittsburgh International Airport.
“This is very rare for us to have all eight of our aircraft flying out of Pittsburgh at one time,” said Lt. Col. Dan Gabler, the unit’s chief of safety.
On any given day at its landing strip, some of the unit’s C-130 cargo planes could be in Georgia undergoing maintenance, or called to action in Iraq.
So having the team of planes together created a perfect opportunity to practice a large supply drop over property the 911th leases for training in Washington County.
As the planes dipped closer to the ground, seven of them unleashed palates holding 3,380 pounds of railroad ties. Parachutes than followed them to their destinations without a hitch.
“Hundreds of people were involved for just a few minutes’ worth of drops,” said Gabler, of Burgettstown.
Members of this unit also have served in Iraq supplying ground troops with the things they need.
“Because of what we do here, I think we were prepared. We all came home,” said Maj. Conrad Witalis of Beaver County.

(Photos courtesy 911th U.S. Air Force Reserve; story, Observer-Reporter)

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