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USAF participates in 2016 Ilopango Airshow in El Salvador

U.S. Air Force members wave to a crowd of people while a U.S. Air Force C-17 cargo aircraft is being taxied prior to takeoff at Ilopango International Airport in San Salvador, El Savador, Jan. 30, during the 2016 Ilopango Airshow.

U.S. Air Force members wave to a crowd of people while a U.S. Air Force C-17 Globemaster III cargo aircraft is being taxied prior to takeoff at Ilopango International Airport in San Salvador, El Savador, Jan. 30, during the 2016 Ilopango Airshow. The C-17 was sent from Altus Air Force Base, Okla., to foster relationships between the U.S. and El Salvador. The aircraft was setup as a static display for the attendees to view and learn about some of its capabilities. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Franklin R. Ramos)

SAN SALVADOR, El Salvador - Members of the 97th Air Mobility Wing were in attendance at the 2016 Ilopango Airshow held at the Ilopango International Airport, San Salvador, El Salvador, Jan. 30–31.

The 97th AMW sent a U.S. Air Force C-17 Globemaster III cargo aircraft from the 58th Airlift Squadron, to be setup as a static display during the airshow.

“The purpose of this trip was for us to come down, showcase the C-17 to the El Salvadorian people and foster good will between us and the El Salvadorian population, air force and military,” said U.S. Air Force Maj. David Tomlinson, 58th Airlift Squadron evaluation pilot.

During the airshow the attendees funneled into the C-17 through its cargo door where they were able to get an inside view of the aircraft and learn about some of its capabilities and features from the crew.

“We answered a lot of questions about the capabilities of the C-17 such as what types of cargo it can hold and its max takeoff weight, which is what we normally do at an airshow in the United States. We’re there to demonstrate the capabilities of the C-17 and I think for the most part we did,” said U.S. Air Force Tech Sgt. Trinidad Gutierrez, 97th Operations Group instructor loadmaster.

Typically the crew is flying routine patterns above the City of Altus, teaching pilot and loadmaster students how to operate a C-17. During this trip they were able to apply some of their teachings in an actual mission.

“What we do at Altus on a daily basis is basically prepare pilots of the C-17 to come out and fly missions like this,” said Tomlinson. “Preparing them to go anywhere in the world anytime day or night and get into any kind of airfield. Now we get to do some of those things here so it’s a chance for us instructors to get out and exercise the sort of things we’re training people on normally within the vicinity of Altus.”

The last time the 97th AMW participated in a foreign airshow was in Canada in the early 2000s. These experiences are good for the crews as they can share them with their students and remain certified with certain tasks.

Citizens from El Salvador sit under a U.S. Air Force C-17 cargo aircraft at Ilopango International Airport in San Salvador, El Savador, Jan. 30, during the 2016 Ilopango Airshow.

Citizens from El Salvador sit under a U.S. Air Force C-17 Globemaster III cargo aircraft, 58th Airlift Squadron, at Ilopango International Airport in San Salvador, El Savador, Jan. 30, during the 2016 Ilopango Airshow. The C-17 was sent from Altus Air Force Base, Okla., to foster relationships between the U.S. and El Salvador. The aircraft was setup as a static display for the attendees to view and learn about some of its capabilities. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Franklin R. Ramos/Released)

“One of the major benefits of this mission for our pilots is maintaining or regaining oceanic currency,” said Tomlinson. “Given that we train at Altus and stay in the local area we don’t get a chance to fly over the ocean on a regular basis which has its own procedures and requirements. That was something we got to do on this trip flying over the Gulf of Mexico and using oceanic procedures so pilots get that benefit out of it.”

Missions such as the airshow can take a lot of planning to ensure its success.

“This trip involved a lot of coordination with various agencies which can always prove to be a challenge and that is the sort of thing C-17 pilots are often called upon to do both in planning and execution,” said Tomlinson. “Here at the C-17 Formal Training Unit we’re training pilots to fly missions around the world and it’s a great opportunity to get out and do that to flex those muscles a little bit and remember the details, the ins and outs of flying an outside contiguous United States mission.”

While the 97th AMW is home to the unit that trains U.S. Air Force and foreign ally C-17 aircrews, it also has a good amount of supporting personnel to help execute these missions.

“I think this trip demonstrated the sort of things Altus AFB is capable of. We had four pilots, four loadmasters, four Security Forces personnel, two maintainers, a medic and Public Affairs photojournalist, with us all carrying out the Air Forces mission of establishing greater ties and better relations with the people of El Salvador and their government,” said Tomlinson. “Also we all worked together as a crew to successfully make that happen from taking the jet down there, executing the airshow, protecting the aircraft while it was at the airshow and bringing it back safely. I think that shows the talents and capabilities Altus has as the premier training base in Southwestern Oklahoma.”

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