From passenger jet to versatile airlift

  • Published
  • By Senior Airman Jonathan Stefanko
  • 86th Airlift Wing Public Affairs
Dressed in flight suits and crammed into a cockpit the size of a clown car, two C-21A Learjet pilots soar through the sky transporting a soldier wounded in battle.

The veteran lies in the back fists clenched as he clings to life. Knowing death waits patiently onboard, the pilots push the cargo plane to go faster, racing against time itself.

"I will never forget that mission," said Capt. Ryan Harrison, 76th Airlift Squadron pilot. "It was a Polish soldier who was gunned down during battle and evacuated to the Landstuhl Regional Medical Center for treatment. Once the medics did what they could for him I had the honor of flying him back home to his loved ones, where he would spend his final days. Words cannot express how much it meant to me to be able to do that for him and his family."

Along with performing aeromedical evacuations, the C-21A and its pilots also provide passenger airlift for distinguished travelers and deliver small amounts of cargo.

"While we are known for transporting military officials and dignitaries, we are capable of doing so much more," Harrison said.

With the capacity to hold eight passengers, 42 cubic feet of cargo or a limited number of medical patients, the small group of C-21A pilots constantly push each other to achieve a common goal, to play any role required of them to complete the mission.

"I love the camaraderie in the squadron," Harrison said. "Even though I am thousands of miles away from my family in Texas, it is because of how close we are here that I am able to call the 76th my home."