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514th FLTS ‘taxi service’ supports aircraft deliveries for warfighters

Aircrew pose for a group photo in front of a C-12 aircraft.

(Left to right) Maj. Jonathan Shiflett, Master Sgt. Chris Caminiti, Master Sgt. Allen Clutter, Senior Master Sgt. Thomas Butts, and Lt. Col. Jared Dickerson, 514th Flight Test Squadron, prepare to board a U.S. Army C-12 at Hill Air Force Base, Utah, March 31, 2020, to the 309th Aerospace Maintenance and Regeneration Group at Davis-Monthan Air Force Base, Arizona, for a C-130 functional check flight. Due to the COVID-19 crisis, the 514th Flight Test Squadron started a “taxi service” initiative to help keep aircraft inductions and deliveries from warfighting units, to and from the Ogden Air Logistics Complex, on-track. (Courtesy photo)

Aircrew sitting aboard a C-12 aircraft.

(Left to right) Senior Master Sgt. Thomas Butts, Master Sgt. Allen Clutter and Master Sgt. Chris Caminiti on board a U.S. Army C-12 on March 31, 2020, en route to the 309th Aerospace Maintenance and Regeneration Group at Davis-Monthan Air Force Base, Arizona, for a C-130 functional check flight. Due to the COVID-19 crisis, the 514th Flight Test Squadron started a “taxi service” initiative to help keep aircraft inductions and deliveries from warfighting units, to and from the Ogden Air Logistics Complex, on-track. (Courtesy photo)

514th Flight Test Squadron Commander Lt. Col. Nathan Litz walking toward a C-12 aircraft.

514th Flight Test Squadron Commander Lt. Col. Nathan Litz prepares to board a U.S. Marine Corps MC-12 on Apr. 16, 2020, at Hill Air Force Base, Utah, for a flight to Nellis Air Force Base, Nevada, to pick up an F-35 for delivery back to Hill AFB. Due to the COVID-19 crisis, the 514th Flight Test Squadron started a “taxi service” initiative to help keep aircraft inductions and deliveries from warfighting units, to and from the Ogden Air Logistics Complex, on-track. (Courtesy photo)

Aircrew sitting in and standing near the bed of a pickup truck.

(Left to right) C-130 flight crew members Master Sgt. Chris Caminiti, Master Sgt. Allen Clutter, Lt. Col. Jeremy Mickelson, and Senior Master Sgt. Thomas Butts prepare for a functional check flight on a C-130 March 31, 2020, at the 309th Aerospace Maintenance and Regeneration Group at Davis-Monthan Air Force Base, Arizona. Due to the COVID-19 crisis, the 514th Flight Test Squadron started a “taxi service” initiative to help keep aircraft inductions and deliveries from warfighting units, to and from the Ogden Air Logistics Complex, on-track. (Courtesy photo)

514th Flight Test Squadron aircrew and 309th Aerospace Maintenance and Regeneration Group personnel pushing a propeller in the back of an aircraft.

514th Flight Test Squadron aircrew assist 309th Aerospace Maintenance and Regeneration Group personnel March 31, 2020, with loading a C-130 propeller at Davis-Monthan Air Force Base, Arizona. Due to the COVID-19 crisis, the 514th Flight Test Squadron started a “taxi service” initiative to help keep aircraft inductions and deliveries from warfighting units, to and from the Ogden Air Logistics Complex, on-track. (Courtesy photo)

Maj. Jonathan Shiflett sitting at his computer desk wearing a face covering.

Maj. Jonathan Shiflett, 514th Flight Test Squadron C-130 pilot, checks the flight schedule Apr. 28, 2020, at Hill Air Force Base, Utah, while wearing a mask made by Tech. Sgt. Aaron Mckeage, 514th FLTS flight equipment technician. (Courtesy photo)

HILL AIR FORCE BASE, Utah -- Could you Uber an F-16? Or Lyft a C-130? One Air Force Reserve Squadron at Hill Air Force Base, normally tasked with flying functional check flights with aircraft after depot maintenance, is stepping out of the box to provide that service.

Due to the COVID-19 crisis, the 514th Flight Test Squadron started a “taxi service” initiative to help keep aircraft inductions and deliveries from warfighting units, to and from the Ogden Air Logistics Complex, on-track.

Normally, pilots fly aircraft from bases around the country to the Ogden ALC and return home via a commercial a flight. The opposite happens when it’s time to pick up an aircraft that’s finished its depot maintenance or modifications at Hill AFB.

By providing a pick up and drop off service from the owning units, pilots from the 514th FLTS are helping keep our nation’s warfighters safe during these unprecedented times.

“Our unit’s mission of performing flight test flights on A-10, F-16, F-22, F-35, and C-130 aircraft is critical to ensuring the 309th Aircraft Maintenance Group’s depot timeline stays on track,” said Lt. Col. Nathan Litz, 514th FLTS commander. “With many units concerned about exposing their combat aircrew (to COVID-19) due to travel, our ability to pick up and drop off aircraft also enables their missions by decreasing their exposure.”

Lt. Col. Beau Wilkins, 514 FLTS test pilot, delivered an F-16 to Shaw Air Force Base, South Carolina, March 24. After delivering the aircraft, he rented a car and drove 423 miles to Dannelly Field located in Montgomery, Alabama, home of the 187th Fighter Wing, Alabama National Guard, where he picked up another F-16 and flew back to Hill AFB March 26.

Since mid-March, 514th FLTS aircrew have flown 53 sorties, providing 10 aircraft to depot delivery and returning 13 aircraft to the warfighter.

The squadron’s aircrew aren’t the only ones stepping up to support the mission during the pandemic.

When Secretary of the Defense Mark Esper put in place a face-covering mandate in early April, it became necessary for 514th FLTS aircrew and others around the DoD to wear them to mitigate the risk of contracting or spreading COVID-19 as they travel and interact with other mission essential personnel at various bases.

Due to the limited number of masks available, Tech. Sgt. Aaron Mckeage, 514th FLTS flight equipment technician with experience making hammocks and tents, offered to make masks for the squadron.

“I am frequently asked what challenges we are facing to our mission and what we are unable to get done due these constraints,” Litz said. “Due to the ingenuity and work ethic of my squadron personnel, my consistent answer is that we are still accomplishing our flight test mission and taking care of each other, but in a different manner.”

“I could not be more proud of how all the members of the 514th have handled the challenges of accomplishing the mission while taking care of each other and their families during the constraints of COVID-19,” he added.