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Youngest 2nd ROPS Airman assists emergency landing

An F-22 Raptor departs Vandenberg Air Force Base Saturday, 10 Dec 05,  after a two day stay due to mechanical difficulties. 
U.S. Air Force photo by TSgt Molly Gilliam

An F-22 Raptor departs Vandenberg Air Force Base Saturday, 10 Dec 05, after a two day stay due to mechanical difficulties. U.S. Air Force photo by TSgt Molly Gilliam

VANDENBERG AIR FORCE BASE, Calif. -- The youngest member of the 2nd Range Operations Squadron played a direct role in the emergency landing of an F-22A Raptor on Vandenberg’s flightline Dec. 8. 

Senior Airman Jillian Voyles, was the aerospace operations control officer, or AOCO, responsible for a duty air controller and two air controllers when an F-22 pilot reported an in-flight emergency.

James Brown III, a civilian test pilot with the 411th Flight Test Squadron at Edwards AFB, Calif., was assessing engine modifications made to an F-22 aircraft 30,000 feet above sea level, at nearly the speed of sound, when an emergency condition presented itself, he said.

“We’d just finished air refueling and my F-16 chaser was inspecting the aircraft,” Mr. Brown said. “During his check, he noticed fuel streaming from the left engine. So after confirming the leak with analysis, I shut down the left engine and prepared to land at the nearest airfield.”

Airman Voyles and her center immediately initiated the emergency procedures and contacted the 30th Space Wing Command Post to initiate emergency actions, said Capt. Brian Knight, a 2nd ROPS range control officer.

“Since every IFE is different, relaying the exact nature of the hazard to key players is very challenging,” Captain Knight said. “In a very short duration, the AOCO needs to be able to pass the correct info so that the proper organizations can respond. One wrong move could mean the difference between saving or losing a $140 million aircraft and a pilot’s life.”

There can be a tremendous amount of stress associated with an AOCO’s duties during an IFE, but Airman Voyles focused on the task at hand and effectively managed the situation, the captain said.

“Jillian’s checklist discipline was spot on,” he said. “It is a highly energized situation that requires
nerves of steel, and like all ‘Range Rats’ Jillian rose to the occasion with a quiet confidence and took care of business.”

“It’s definitely an adrenaline rush. It’s very different from a training ride when there’s really someone in a plane that needs to be landed,” Airman Voyles said. “But you have to remember what you’re doing and just forget about whatever you’re worried about, because the situation can get a lot worse if you don’t do what you’re supposed to.”

The actions of Airman Voyles were commended by members of 2nd ROPS and left a good impression on the 411th FLTS.

“I really like working with these guys,” the pilot said. “They’re always sharp and really seem to have their act together.”

“We are all proud of Jillian. Although she is the youngest Airman in 2nd ROPS, we continue to challenge her with the most difficult tasks,” Capt. Knight said. “Her response to the IFE is attributable to her continuous training, driven work ethic and can-do attitude.”