Houston & Peach

Historic landing happens at Robins Air Force Base

Global Hawk makes historic landing at Robins

In the early morning hours Wednesday, some people standing near the runway of Robins Air Force Base witnessed the first ever landing of an unmanned aircraft at the base.
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In the early morning hours Wednesday, some people standing near the runway of Robins Air Force Base witnessed the first ever landing of an unmanned aircraft at the base.

At 12:48 a.m. Wednesday, a plane swooped out of the black sky and onto the runway of Robins Air Force Base for a historic landing.

The plane was an RQ-4 Global Hawk and was the first unmanned aircraft to land at Robins or any other air logistics complex. About 40 people applauded as the plane landed, but they couldn’t see much of it until it taxied over into a well-lighted area.

After it powered down, excited onlookers were able walk right up to it. Among those was Tim Davis, a journeyman painter who went to California to get special training to paint the aircraft.

“It’s something different and you are always excited about doing something different,” he said.

The plane left Beale Air Force Base in California at about 3 p.m. Tuesday and flew nonstop to Robins, said Roland Leach, base spokesman. That was no problem for the spy plane, which can stay aloft for 30 hours and fly at over 60,000 feet. It was flown remotely by a pilot at Beale, but Robins has also established the capability to control it at the base.

The plane will get a new paint job at Robins, and the work is about much more than cosmetics. Areas of chipped off paint on the leading edges of the wing are clearly visible, and that causes drag on the plane which cuts down on efficiency, Davis said.

Leach said the aircraft requires a special type and method of painting that is different from any other aircraft that the base maintains, so it has taken some training to prepare for the project. The aim is for more of the aircraft to come in in the future.

The early morning landing was because a no-fly zone was established for other aircraft during the time of the landing. Col. Jeff King, commander of the 78th Air Base Wing, said he isn’t sure yet if that will have to be the norm for future landings and takeoffs, but he did not rule out the possibility of daytime flying. It may well launch in the daylight to return to Beale, he said. That is expected to happen in a few weeks.

“We are pretty excited about this,” King said. “This is a big deal for us.”

The Global Hawk has a wing span of 131 feet, which is nearly that of the C-130 cargo plane maintained at Robins.

The landing came after two other scheduled attempts two weeks ago were canceled due to technical issues.

Wayne Crenshaw: 478-256-9725, @WayneCrenshaw1

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