Air Force Reservists Experience Solar Eclipse Training Flight

JOINT BASE CHARLESTON, S.C. --

An aircrew of reserve airmen stationed here had the opportunity to fly a routine C-17 Globemaster III training mission under not so routine conditions -- flying in the path of a total solar eclipse.

Eclipse training mission
As a Joint Base Charleston, S.C., C-17 Globemaster III heads back to Charleston after a local training mission, the shadow of the Aug. 21, 2017, total solar eclipse passes over the jet leaving the ground in darkness below. Airmen from the 315th Airlift Wing happened to have a normally schedule training mission on the day the eclipse passed over South Carolina. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Bobby Pilch
Eclipse training mission Eclipse training mission
As a Joint Base Charleston, S.C., C-17 Globemaster III heads back to Charleston after a local training mission, the shadow of the Aug. 21, 2017, total solar eclipse passes over the jet leaving the ground in darkness below. Airmen from the 315th Airlift Wing happened to have a normally schedule training mission on the day the eclipse passed over South Carolina. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Bobby Pilch

During the Aug. 21 standard training flight, the Air Force reservists of the 317th and 701st Airlift Squadrons practiced tactics as they traveled along the eclipse shadow’s path from just outside of Spartanburg, South Carolina, back to Charleston.

Training Flight

“We were doing local training doing low altitude flying and approaches in Charleston, then went to North Field, our auxiliary field for assault landings and other tactical training we do there,” said Air Force Lt. Col. John Robinson, the 315th Operations Group’s deputy commander and aircraft commander for the mission.

They then met up with a KC-135 Stratotanker from the Ohio Air National Guard over North Carolina. With all their scheduled training tasks complete, they were ready to join up with the rapidly approaching eclipse and make their way back to Charleston.

“All this training combined with meeting up with the eclipse allowed us to demonstrate our expertise of executing time over target to get this eclipse coming at us at over 1,400 miles per hour,” Robinson said. “We have to time where we’re going to be, when we’re going to be there all in order to get it to come together at one point.”

Eclipse training mission
A C-17 Globemaster III aircraft connects with an Ohio Air National Guard KC-135 Stratotanker during a training mission before later connecting with the Aug. 21, 2017, total solar eclipse and following it back to base. Airmen from the 315th Airlift Wing happened to have a normally schedule training mission on the day the eclipse passed over South Carolina. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Bobby Pilch
Eclipse training mission Eclipse training mission
A C-17 Globemaster III aircraft connects with an Ohio Air National Guard KC-135 Stratotanker during a training mission before later connecting with the Aug. 21, 2017, total solar eclipse and following it back to base. Airmen from the 315th Airlift Wing happened to have a normally schedule training mission on the day the eclipse passed over South Carolina. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Bobby Pilch

The eclipse shadow was traveling at 1,488 mph while the C-17 was flying at 230 mph.

Unique Flying Experience

“We had the very unique experience of flying, because we were the only airplane from JB Charleston in the air during the eclipse,” said Air Force Lt. Col. Jason Williams, a 317th AS pilot. “It just so happened to work out perfectly that after our air refueling track we go onto a section of South Carolina where the eclipse followed an entire corridor all the way back to Charleston.”

Williams added, “We were in the eclipse about two-and-a-half minutes the entire time. I was actually surprised; I thought the aircraft would be darker inside, but you could actually see a lot of light. It seemed like almost twilight out there. It was really neat to be out there flying.”