Dawn of a new era for Conn. Air Guard: C-27J visits Bradley, lights up Guardsmen's day

  • Published
  • By Tech. Sgt. Joshua Mead
  • 103rd Airlift Wing, Public Affairs
The sun rose like any other day Friday, Oct. 22, 2010, over Bradley Air National Guard Base, in East Granby. This time, however, a new type of plane at Bradley welcomed its warm rays. Once shedding its light on the A-10 Thunderbolt, and currently the C-21 Cougar, the bright new day lit up the wings of a new plane, the C-27J Spartan.

The Italian-made plane stopped by for a one-day demonstration allowing guardsmen from the 103rd Airlift Wing a chance to see their new plane and future flying mission up close. L-3 Platform Integration, Alenia North America and the joint venture, Global Military Aircraft Systems (GMAS) tailored the event for the guardsmen to familiarize them with the plane and its capabilities. The familiarization tour also included incentive flights allowing select guardsmen a chance to feel the 3.0 g-forces that the C-27J is capable of generating.

"It was awesome. I've never seen a cockpit that nice in my life. Everything is glass, everything is automated, it flies real smooth," said Maj. Josh "Tiny" Panis, pilot, 103rd Airlift Wing, as he described his experience test flying the C-27J.

Another pilot with the wing, who got to try out the C-27J, Capt. John "Monkey" Howley, said the plane was a "real capable, very responsive flying, pilot-friendly aircraft."

"It was almost electric in terms of an atmosphere here," said Col. Frank Detorie, commander of the 103rd Airlift Wing.

The excitement from Panis, Howley and the rest of the base looked to be equally matched by the passengers of the incentive flights as they were strapped into jump seats in the cargo bay. From the measure of the cheers and applause prior to take off and after landing, the future of the C-27J at Bradley looks bright.

"It is a big step for us here at the Connecticut Air National Guard," said Col. Detorie. "After the 2005 BRAC (base realignment and closure) commission decided to take the A-10s out of Connecticut, we needed a follow-on flying mission--we needed something that would keep us here long-term and relevant; this is what the Air Force decided to give us and we couldn't be more excited."

The C-27J Spartan is a tactical airlifter essential to the Air Force by providing on-demand transport of time-sensitive, mission-critical cargo and personnel to forward operating units. The plane is also capable of many unique missions such as, low velocity air drops, Medevacs, deploying paratroopers, sending in combat ground troops and performing firefighting and search and rescue missions.

"The C-27 represents the beginning of a new era here at Bradley," said Detorie. We are evolving into the type of mission that will keep us relevant and stable as a unit and keep us flying long into the future, said Detorie. And this new airplane, that we can see being around for a very long time, represents the beginning of this new mission.

The other aspect behind the C-27J mission is the second half of the Guard's dual-role status, said Detorie. For over 80 years, Bradley has been in the fighter business which has been mostly a federal mission. With this mission, we bring the capability for disaster relief and aero-medical evacuation, he said.

"We bring something to the citizens of Connecticut where they can say, 'you know what? If I need them, the Connecticut Guard is there for me,'" said Detorie.

To date, L-3, Alenia and the C-27J team have delivered five aircraft to the U.S. Air Force. The 103rd Airlift Wing is scheduled to see its first plane sometime during the latter part of 2013. Overall, the Air Force is looking to acquire 38 C-27Js.

The C-27J may have flown away into the sunset after the familiarization tour, but its return is planned for another day. It is scheduled to return to the same group of Connecticut Guardsmen that were excited to see it this first time.