AVIANO AIR BASE, Italy --
The 31st Maintenance Squadron’s transient alert section hosted a crashed, damaged or disabled aircraft recovery (CDDAR) training where U.S. Airmen from Ramstein Air Force Base, Germany and Spangdahlem AFB, Germany as well as members from the Italian air force (ITAF) were present.
U.S. Airmen from the 31st Maintenance Group, 31st Civil Engineer Squadron’s fire protection, 31st Logistics Readiness Squadron’s fuels section, 56th Rescue Generation Squadron and 31st Fighter Wing’s safety section were involved in the training held on Oct. 20, 2022.
“As CDDAR, we respond to any in-flight emergency (IFE) or ground emergency for all Aviano AB aircraft, whether on or off the flight line” said Tech. Sgt. Brian Martin, 31st MXS transient alert NCOIC.
Although the preservation of aircraft and equipment is important, the highest priority is keeping people safe and saving lives.
“In some situations, we may be directed to just push an aircraft off the runaway and that’s exactly what we’ll do,” said Martin. “If there are Airmen and aircraft in the air that need to land, they are more important.”
CDDAR is an Air Force wide program, and all of its Airmen go through their initial training at Lackland Air Force Base, Texas. Due to the limited number of slots for the CDDAR program at Lackland, not every applicant is selected each year.
“Getting CDDAR certified is something I always sought after,” said Senior Airman Pedro Countz, 31st MXS transient alert journeyman and CDDAR team member. “When I found out I was picked I was excited.”
While getting selected for training can be an exciting affair, CDDAR is not all fun and games. Being responsible for the well-being of aircraft and pilots alike can also be a source of anxiety.
“Although it can be stressful at times, when things are going well it’s a lot of fun,” said Countz.
To remain CDDAR certified, Airmen must perform at least one aircraft lift annually. This lift can be a bag lift, crane lift, or both. U.S. Airmen from German bases as well as numerous ITAF wings participated in this exercise to retain their certification.
“Since this is not something we use daily, the CDDAR team and I came in early to make sure we were on the same page with the procedures,” said Martin. “We wanted to make sure that all the information we were passing on to Airmen from all the different bases was correct.”
Due to how different the situations they can respond to are, the CDDAR manual emphasizes operational agility over rigid instruction.
“Every scenario is different so we can’t just open the CDDAR book and follow step-by-step instructions,” said Martin. “The book contains open ended information that gives us flexibility to make decisions on how to lift and recover aircrafts.”
During recoveries, lives and millions of dollars are at risk. Effective implementation of training and a balance of speed and meticulousness are vital.
“A challenge we face in the heat of the moment is taking a moment to breathe,” said Countz. “A recovery and everything that comes with it can take a long time, but we need to make sure we are not rushing and remembering everything we were trained on.”
The CDDAR team depend on each other, as well as communication and teamwork, to make sure they are ready for when an incident occurs and that the job is done well.
“We have an amazing crew with lots of experience from all parts of the maintenance world,” said Martin. “We enjoy learning from each other and seeing some of the younger guys being nervous yet eager to jump in and help with the bag lift. More importantly, we’re getting them ready to assist in real-world emergencies.