First-ever unmanned aircraft flying in to Robins Air Force Base

By WAYNE CRENSHAW | The Macon Telegraph (Tribune News Service) | Published: January 13, 2017

For the first time ever, an unmanned aircraft is expected to fly into Robins Air Force Base sometime this year, and more of them could be coming.

Brig. Gen. John Kubinec, commander of the Warner Robins Air Logistics Complex, said a Global Hawk will fly into Robins as a test for more of the aircraft coming for repair work. A date has not been set, but he said advance notice will be given so that people can see it.

It should make for quite a spectacle. The surveillance and reconnaissance aircraft has a 131-foot wingspan, which is nearly that of a C-130. It would be flown by someone sitting in a room potentially hundreds or even thousands of miles away.

Kubinec revealed the news at a meeting of the 21st Century Partnership at the Museum of Aviation.

“That’s very exiting,” Dan Penny, director of the partnership, said after the meeting. “That’s one of the best things we’ve ever heard.”

If Robins takes on the work, it initially would be for repairs to the planes, not the overhaul maintenance that it does on other aircraft. The Global Hawk has not gotten to the point of needing overhaul maintenance, but Penny said he believes that work could be coming to Robins when it is needed.

Kubinec said he couldn’t estimate how many new jobs the Global Hawk would bring. But he gave some indication that the workload could grow over time.

The aircraft is able to fly at high altitudes for more than 30 hours, gathering high-resolution imagery. It has flown in support of military operations in Iraq and Afghanistan, among other areas.

Kubinec said the base has available space in the hangar where C-5 work is done, but that space isn’t big enough for the Global Hawk. The space, however, is big enough for the F-15. If the Global Hawk comes, some F-15s could move into the C-5 hangar and the Global Hawk would go into an F-15 hangar.

The hangar vacated by the departure of the Marine helicopter squadron last year could be used for additional maintenance workload, he said.

If the Global Hawk workload grows, new facilities may be needed in the future. He said the Air Force has never flown an unmanned aircraft into one of its maintenance depots.

“This would be a big step for Robins to be able to fly a Global Hawk into Robins Air Force Base,” he said. “That opens the door for us to do some work on the Global Hawk.”

Kubinec also said the complex is doing more C-130 work this year, and there is potential for that to continue to increase in the future.

The maintenance workers union, the American Federation of Government Employees Local 987, remains under trusteeship of the national union. Kubinec said a date has not been set to give membership the chance to elect officers, but he said he expects that to happen sometime this year.

Relations with the union under the trusteeship have been positive, he said.

“We are working very closely with the interim board, but we did lose some momentum in that whole process. We had a great partnership with our union. The collaboration was really at an all-time high.”

Kubinec also said the base is on schedule for the amount of aircraft work it is scheduled to do this year. The schedule calls for 44 aircraft to have been completed at this point in the fiscal year, which began Oct. 1, and to date 44 have been completed. The base completed three more than it was scheduled to do last year.

The maintenance area has about 600 vacant positions. He expects about half of those to be filled internally, which would open more vacancies, and the rest would be new hires.

©2017 The Macon Telegraph (Macon, Ga.)
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