42nd Anniversary
HOLLOMAN AIR FORCE BASE, N.M. -- The first MQ-9 Reaper to arrive at Holloman made its first local flight Oct.1, expanding the capacity for the remotely piloted vehicle formal training unit here.
MQ-9 Reaper makes first local flight



by Airman 1st Class Sondra Escutia
49th Fighter Wing Public Affairs


10/8/2009 - HOLLOMAN AIR FORCE BASE, N.M.  -- The first MQ-9 Reaper to arrive at Holloman made its first local flight Oct.1, expanding the capacity for the remotely piloted vehicle formal training unit here.

Instructors from the 432nd Operations Group, Det. 3 -- soon to be the 29th Attack Squadron -- conducted the first flight, while members from the 432nd Maintenance Group, Det. 1 -- soon to be the 849th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron -- were responsible for maintaining the aircraft.

However, Lt. Col. James Merchant, Det. 3 commander, said this achievement was the result of a great effort by all of Team Holloman.

"There were plenty of hurdles along the way, but everyone maintained focus, looked at the individual steps -- from power and connections to pattern deconfliction and scheduling," said Colonel Merchant. "Everyone kept moving in a positive direction."

Members of the MQ-9 FTU have been preparing for this feat for about a year, but have only recently reached a fully operational capacity with the arrival of their first aircraft and first qualified crew.

"The first flight is ... the first step to becoming independent of another base and wing to do our takeoff and landing," said Colonel Merchant. "Ultimately, it results in more flexibility for us as well, as we will be the only user of the aircraft."

Currently, students enrolled in the FTU are trained with aircraft launched from Creech Air Force Base, Nev., using satellite relays to pick up the MQ-9 for a total of 18 hours per day. Once Holloman has qualified crews and enough aircraft, the squadron will be able to launch and recover the Reaper themselves.

"From now until we get our second aircraft in December, we will be flying a local line intermittently to build a cadre of qualified launch and recovery crews," said Colonel Merchant.

The squadron is slated to receive its third and fourth aircraft in January 2010. 

On Oct. 23, the 432nd OG, Det. 3, will become the 29th Attack Squadron, and the 432nd MXG, Det. 1, will become the 849th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron, both of which will fall under the 49th Fighter Wing.