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It came from the deep: Team Buckley rips broken device from Lake Williams

BUCKLEY AIR FORCE BASE, Colo. – A Colorado Army National Guard UH-60 Black Hawk helicopter prepares to connect the rigging required to lift a non-functioning aerator from Lake Williams Sept. 20, 2012. The 460th Civil Engineer Squadron biologist Krystal Phillips requested assistance from the COANG to lift the device from the lake. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Nicholas Rau)

BUCKLEY AIR FORCE BASE, Colo. – A Colorado Army National Guard UH-60 Black Hawk helicopter prepares to connect the rigging required to lift a non-functioning aerator from Lake Williams Sept. 20, 2012. The 460th Civil Engineer Squadron biologist Krystal Phillips requested assistance from the COANG to lift the device from the lake. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Nicholas Rau)

BUCKLEY AIR FORCE BASE, Colo. – A Colorado Army National Guard UH-60 Black Hawk helicopter lifts a non-functioning aerator from Lake Williams Sept. 20, 2012. “The removal of the aerator has the potential to save lives by aiding flight safety in the reduction of birds perching on the open water of Lake Williams,” explained Krystal Phillips, 460th Civil Engineer Squadron fish and wildlife biologist.  “This is a critical component of the Air Force and Buckley Air Force Base Bird Air Strike Hazard program.” (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Nicholas Rau)

BUCKLEY AIR FORCE BASE, Colo. – A Colorado Army National Guard UH-60 Black Hawk helicopter lifts a non-functioning aerator from Lake Williams Sept. 20, 2012. “The removal of the aerator has the potential to save lives by aiding flight safety in the reduction of birds perching on the open water of Lake Williams,” explained Krystal Phillips, 460th Civil Engineer Squadron fish and wildlife biologist. “This is a critical component of the Air Force and Buckley Air Force Base Bird Air Strike Hazard program.” (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Nicholas Rau)

BUCKLEY AIR FORCE BASE, Colo. – A non-functioning aerator was lifted from the shallow waters of Lake Williams Sept. 20, 2012.  The Colorado Army National Guard teamed up with the 460th Civil Engineer Squadron to remove the device from the lake. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Nicholas Rau)

BUCKLEY AIR FORCE BASE, Colo. – A non-functioning aerator was lifted from the shallow waters of Lake Williams Sept. 20, 2012. The Colorado Army National Guard teamed up with the 460th Civil Engineer Squadron to remove the device from the lake. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Nicholas Rau)

BUCKLEY AIR FORCE BASE, Colo. -- The Colorado Army National Guard teamed up with 460th Civil Engineer Squadron biologists and removed a partially submerged aerator from Lake Williams via UH-60 Black Hawk helicopter Sept. 20.

The aerator was placed in Lake Williams in 2006 to dissolve oxygen into the water to support the fishing program that was rescinded in 2011. Since then, the water levels have dramatically decreased and so has the need for the non-functioning device.

According to Krystal Phillips, 460th CES fish and wildlife biologist, during an inspection in early August the aerator was discovered to be inoperative. The next step was to notify the manufacturer and devise a plan for total removal of the device.

In order to lift the more than 850 pound aerator from the depths of the lake, Phillips enlisted the help of Chief Warrant Officer 4 Curtis Hathcock of the COANG.

"Being that this was a unique load, we first had to clear it with the state aviation officer," explained Hathcock, a UH-60 pilot who oversaw the airlift. "We came out here and performed (reconnaissance) on the area. It took us approximately 30 minutes to connect the rigging and coordinate the flight path."

The COANG team prepped the helicopter and ran all preflight tests two hours before the training mission to ensure all possible mechanical issues were addressed. In addition, Hathcock anticipated potential risks associated with the lift and planned accordingly. The major undertaking would be raising the aerator, with its awkward weight, from the lake.

"We used the longest line to ensure the maximum distance between the load and the UH-60," said Hathcock. "In case something goes wrong, the pilots can always jettison the load."

With the aerator removed from Lake Williams, Buckley will see a decrease in potential bird strikes incidents as the birds will no longer be nesting along flight paths or near the flight line.

"The removal of the aerator has the potential to save lives by aiding flight safety in the reduction of birds perching on the open water of Lake Williams," explained Phillips. "This is a critical component of the Air Force and Buckley Air Force Base Bird Air Strike Hazard program."

In addition to its impact on safety, removing the aerator saves the Air Force money. By moving the device to F.E. Warren Air Force Base, Wyo., where it will be salvaged and repurposed, the Air Force will save approximately $30,000.
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