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18th OSS keeps aircraft safe during typhoon season

Shane Anderson, 18th Maintenance Group Air Force Engineering and Technical Services member, and Tech. Sgt. Hector Schunior, 961st Aircraft Maintenance Unit aircraft electrical and environmental technician, troubleshoot a generator of an E-3 Sentry Air Warning and Control System aircraft on Kadena Air Base, Japan, Oct. 24, 2013. During inclement weather, one of the two E-3 Sentry aircraft on island must be evacuated in order to protect the jet. The other AWACS aircraft is put in a hangar, unless the weather is forecasted to cause significant damage to the hangar, in which case the second aircraft will evacuate. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Hailey R. Davis)

Shane Anderson, 18th Maintenance Group Air Force Engineering and Technical Services member, and Tech. Sgt. Hector Schunior, 961st Aircraft Maintenance Unit aircraft electrical and environmental technician, troubleshoot a generator of an E-3 Sentry Air Warning and Control System aircraft on Kadena Air Base, Japan, Oct. 24, 2013. During inclement weather, one of the two E-3 Sentry aircraft on island must be evacuated in order to protect the jet. The other AWACS aircraft is put in a hangar, unless the weather is forecasted to cause significant damage to the hangar, in which case the second aircraft will evacuate. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Hailey R. Davis)

U.S. Air Force Capt. Joshua Craymer, 18th Operations Support Squadron pilot and wing scheduler, reviews flight plans on Kadena Air Base, Japan, Oct. 24, 2013. Craymer is in charge of scheduling flying hours for more than six flying units assigned to Kadena, and provides guidance when aircraft must evacuate due to the position of a typhoon. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Hailey R. Davis)

U.S. Air Force Capt. Joshua Craymer, 18th Operations Support Squadron pilot and wing scheduler, reviews flight plans on Kadena Air Base, Japan, Oct. 24, 2013. Craymer is in charge of scheduling flying hours for more than six flying units assigned to Kadena, and provides guidance when aircraft must evacuate due to the position of a typhoon. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Hailey R. Davis)

U.S. Air Force Tech. Sgt. Hector Schunior, 961st Aircraft Maintenance Unit aircraft electrical and environmental technician, troubleshoots the generator of an E-3 Sentry Air Warning and Control System aircraft on Kadena Air Base, Japan, Oct. 24, 2013. The E-3 Sentry must be evacuated early because if not, once there are high crosswinds and water on the runway, the jet cannot take off. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Hailey R. Davis)

U.S. Air Force Tech. Sgt. Hector Schunior, 961st Aircraft Maintenance Unit aircraft electrical and environmental technician, troubleshoots the generator of an E-3 Sentry Air Warning and Control System aircraft on Kadena Air Base, Japan, Oct. 24, 2013. The E-3 Sentry must be evacuated early because if not, once there are high crosswinds and water on the runway, the jet cannot take off. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Hailey R. Davis)

KADENA AIR BASE, Japan -- In the Pacific Theater, typhoons come and go between the months of May and November, causing aircraft to be evacuated to minimize damage and still support Kadena's mission.

The 18th Operations Support Squadron works with other flying squadrons in order to coordinate locations and evacuation procedures for aircraft during inclement weather.

"Airfield management's primary role is to care for the assets that are still left on island because we can never get rid of all the aircraft that are not flyable," said Capt. Joshua Craymer, 18th OSS wing scheduler. "They allocate hangar space, make sure any damage to the airfield can get repaired for the aircraft coming back and facilitate foreign object and debris sweeps on the runways and the taxiways to make sure none of the aircraft ingest any kind of dangerous debris left over from the storm."

"The objective when we evacuate aircraft is not just to prevent the aircraft from sustaining physical damage but it's also to be able to continue to operate," Craymer said. "The enemies that are in this theater and the jobs we do in this theater don't stop due to bad weather, so when we move tankers to Guam, or the (E-3 Sentry Air Warning and Control System aircraft) to Yokota, we do that in such a way that we can continue to operate and can continue to fly those lines and meet those higher headquarters taskings from outside the island."

Based on the position of incoming storms, flying squadrons are able to decide which aircraft evacuate, and which aircraft are placed in hangars.

"We evacuate the aircraft because in some cases we don't have the appropriate hangar space," Craymer said. "If the aircraft can weather the storm you still want to be able to have a certain level of operational capability so if Kadena is (down) for several days, we can preposition aircraft."

Knowing the position of the typhoon is important when planning evacuations, especially if maintenance is being performed on the aircraft.

"Usually we try to keep up-to-date on typhoon trackers and if one of our jets is broken or if we're waiting on a part, we need to expedite getting that fixed," said Capt. Lucas McCloud, 18th Airborne Air Control Squadron pilot.

A lot goes into evacuating aircraft before the storm gets close enough to affect the aircraft from taking off to their destination. Other considerations include ramp space at the receiving base and transportation and lodging for the aircrew.

Other factors like ground equipment to operate the aircraft, maintenance support shops and issues like runways being closed and construction are also taken into consideration when deciding where to evacuate to, Craymer said.

The position of the typhoon and current conditions, including crosswind speeds and the amount of rain water on the runway, are also discussed on a squadron-by-squadron basis when evacuating aircraft.

"We try to (make the decision to evacuate the AWACS) as early as possible because ... if it starts raining here and we get a significant crosswind then we can't even take off," McCloud said. "We have to try to make the call early, usually when it's still Tropical Cyclone Condition of Readiness-4."

The 18th OSS is also in charge of making sure the 18th Wing runway is repaired prior to the return of aircraft after a typhoon.

Although typhoon season will come to an end in November, the 18th OSS ensures the 18th Wing and its aircrews can continue to operate, regardless of the weather.