MINOT AIR FORCE BASE, N.D. -- Two Airmen from the 5th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron were recently coined by wing leadership for their work in helping to prevent the spread of a potentially disastrous fire involving a B-52H Stratofortress.
The situation all began during a routine B-52 landing procedure when crew chiefs Senior Airman Broc Wilson and Airman 1st Class Christopher Tolch were marshalling pilots to the proper parking location.
Upon placing the chocks (used to prevent wheels from rolling) on the aircraft, the pilots released the brakes which suddenly caused smoke to erupt at the front end of the aircraft.
"All I saw was the smoke at first," Wilson said of the hydraulic systems. He quickly communicated to Tolch the need to signal an emergency egress gesture to pilots and crew members.
As the pilots hastily evacuated the bomber, Wilson noticed flames beginning to form. It was at that moment that he knew what he had to do.
Acting quickly he rushed over to retrieve the Halon fire extinguisher located at the end of the aircraft.
"I had never seen anyone use the Halon before, so I was nervous," said Wilson. Yet despite his worries, he remembered his training and successfully put out the fire, leaving no flames behind.
He notified his supervision and shortly after, fire response personnel arrived on scene. They assessed the situation and ensured everything was under control and also checked for the well being of those involved.
Following an investigation of the situation, it was determined the fire was caused by flammable hydraulic fluid leaking onto a hot brake surface.
According to the wing safety office, a similar mishap that took place involving a B-52, at a different location, caused nearly $800,000 worth in damages. In that case, it was determined that there was a lack of proper communication. It also resulted in numerous hours by engineering repair teams, numerous damaged components and a substantial loss of downtime on the airframe.
"Their training and professionalism enabled them to respond in a manner that was paramount in the safe evacuation of the aircrew," said Lt. Col. Scott H. Maytan, 5th Bomb Wing Chief of Safety. "They prevented costly repairs and brought this aircraft back to a fully mission capable status in less than 24 hours."
To Wilson and Tolch, what they did was just protocol. It is what they are there for, they both said. However, looking back at the repercussions that could of have come out of it, the significance of their proper execution of procedures proves the great work ethic and professionalism of the Airmen from the 5th AMXS.
"In the end, it's not science fiction, it's what we do every day," said Tolch.