Creative Flow

Eloy, Ariz. Budget sequestration has forced Air Force units to get creative. Members of the New York Air National Guard’s 103rd Rescue Squadron in West Hampton took advantage of a training day last week during the academic portion of Angel Thunder 2013, the largest combat search and rescue exercise in the world, to practice their jump skills in a different way. These airmen drove about an hour from Davis-Monthan AFB, Ariz., for three hours of training in the wind tunnel here. The tunnel is a large Plexiglas-enclosed tube that utilizes a huge fan to simulate the freefall portion of a skydive. “A little creativity can get us more bang for our buck,” said Capt. Chris Baker, the squadron’s tactics officer. He noted that one hour of tunnel time costs about $700 compared to one hour in a C-130, which costs about $10,000. Each pararescue jumper gained the experience of roughly 30 freefalls, while saving the Air Force many thousands of dollars. The tunnel allowed the PJs to see how “little tweaks” to their body position can significantly change their movement while in freefall, said Lt. Col. Shawn Fitzgerald, 103rd RQS commander. The squadron members compared their time in the wind tunnel to a pilot’s use of a flight simulator, although they acknowledged that the tunnel could never replace actual jumps. (They did do a live jump that day as well.)