First MQ-9 Reaper Taxi at Wheeler- Sack Army Air Field, Ft. Drum NY

  • Published
  • By Staff Sgt. Ricky J. Best
  • 174FW/Public Affairs
This date will serve as a significant milestone in the illustrious history of the 174th Fighter Wing as it marks the first time that a full-sized remotely piloted military aircraft (RPA) taxied on New York State soil.

On June 30, 2011, at approximately 1400 hours, an MQ-9 Reaper taxied along the Wheeler-Sack Army Air Field flight line, taking the unit's first steps towards flying the MQ-9 Reaper from its detachment at Ft. Drum, Watertown, NY.

"The taxi event was anti-climatic, it was exactly as we hoped it would be, not a glitch. But this doesn't mean it was easy, but it was a reflection of the work our Airmen put into the ongoing operations at Wheeler-Sack AAF on Ft. Drum", said Col. Kevin W. Bradley, 174th Fighter Wing Commander.

Even though the 174th FW received its first remotely piloted aircraft back in March of 2009 and since December 2010 has been flying 24-hour combat missions overseas, it took many months of preparation and training to come to the this high point. Among those on hand to witness this important event were Brig. Gen. Harry E. Miller Jr., Senior Commander Ft. Drum, Col. Kevin W. Bradley,174th FW Commander, Col. John M. Balbierer, 174th Maintenance Group Commander, and Col. Harvey M. Vanwie, 174th FW Special Project Officer.

"The taxi check represents the first significant step towards flight operations from Wheeler-Sack AAF. Now we wait on gaining FAA approval of our Certificate of Authorization and we can go flying in the surrounding Military Special Use Airspace", said Bradley.

While the 174th FW's ultimate goal is to fly the MQ-9 from its home base at Hancock Field, Syracuse, NY, the wing is excited about making Wheeler-Sack AAF its home for MQ-9 flight operations for the foreseeable future.

"It is important to note the 174FW is a tenant on Wheeler-Sack AAF and we recognize and appreciate our host, the 10th Mountain Division for their incredible support. At every level we have benefitted from their support and cooperation. The Combat Aviation Brigade, Garrison and Airfield Staff have provided us everything from temporary facilities to engineering support. We were especially appreciative the acting 10th MD Commander, Brig. Gen. Miller joined us to watch the taxi check. There is no better visible sign of support", said Bradley.