An aircraft that began life as a refueling tanker and later provided executive airlift for the Air Force Chief of Staff as part of Project Speckled Trout will soon provide the service’s prospective flight attendants with a more realistic training environment.
At one time, the aircraft was assigned to the 412th Flight Test Squadron at Edwards Air Force Base, Calif.
A ribbon-cutting ceremony Oct. 25 next to the 344th Training Squadron hangar at Joint Base San Antonio-Lackland signaled the completion of a months-long project undertaken by the 502nd Trainer Development Squadron at JBSA-Randolph to replace the original galley of the VC-135 aircraft with two new student station galleys for training flight attendants.
The ceremony featured comments by 344th TRS officials, including Maj. Jordan Clark, 344th TRS commander, and Chief Master Sgt. Michael Arroyo, 344th TRS Career Enlisted Aviator Center of Excellence commandant. Also in attendance were Col. Rockie Wilson, 37th Training Wing commander; Col. Joyce Storm, 37th Training Group commander; and Chief Master Sgt. Chris King, Air Education and Training Command CEA MAJCOM functional manager.
Changes to the aircrew trainer will enhance flight attendant training, said Chief Master Sgt. Rob Reasor, 344th TRS CEA CoE deputy commandant, who also spoke during the ceremony.
“Any time we can get our aircrew candidates access to real ‘iron,’ it solidifies the classroom instruction and enhances retention,” he said. “The VC-135 Speckled Trout being updated to what our flight attendants will see and use in the field is a huge step forward.”
Tech. Sgt. Autumn Murphy, 344th TRS basic flight attendant instructor, described how students will learn in the new environment.
“There are already active kitchens, so the students have stoves, sinks and preparation stations where they can put all of the meals together,” she said. “They’re actually able to serve meals on the plane for training. It’s much more realistic training.”
Students will also practice emergency procedures on the aircraft, Murphy said.
“So instead of sitting in the classroom, putting chairs together and pretending that they’re on an airplane, now they will be able to actually utilize an aircraft and get passengers out of their seats to use the emergency escape routes like they would on actual aircraft,” she said.
The two new student station galleys replicate those found on the C-40B, a Boeing 737 derivative, said Paul Ramsay, 502nd TDS design and development supervisor.
“The 502nd TDS took on the project, researched what could be done inside the aircraft to replicate the C-40B’s galley features and has been hard at work, first stripping out the old galley setup and then resourcing and building all the new cabinetry and appliances, and installing all the power, water and other services to make it all work together,” he said.
Reasor commended the 502nd TDS’ work on the project.
“The work and attention to detail accomplished by the 502nd TDS is amazing,” he said. “We did run into a few production delays that pushed our delivery back, but overall we are happy with the end product. Our team of flight attendant instructors were the subject matter experts who guided the 502nd TDS fabricators through the details of the build. From course requirements to the actual look and feel of the jet, these folks are the professionals that made this possible. I’m super proud to have them all on our team.”
The Speckled Trout began as a KC-135A-BN and took its first flight in December 1985. Throughout the years, it flew with the 55th Strategic Reconnaissance Wing at Offutt Air Force Base, Neb., the 65th Airlift Squadron at Hickam AFB, Hawaii, and the 412th Flight Test Squadron at Edwards Air Force Base, Calif.
The aircraft was moved to JBSA-Kelly Field in June 2008 and to the JBSA-Lackland Training Annex less than a year later, but now resides next to the 344th TRS hangar, where it continues to provide training for a variety of aircrew members.
“Moving the aircraft from the JBSA-Chapman Training Annex is a massive time saver for our students and cadre alike,” Reasor said.
The trainer’s new setup is ready for the FA class that begins in December, Murphy said.
“We had contractors finishing stuff up until very recently,” she said. “Now it’s 100 percent ready and operational. We’ve already started the training with this class, so we will start with the next class in December.”