As part of the exercise Pitch Black deployment, an E-3A Component Trainer Cargo Aircraft (TCA) conducted the first around-the-world flight by a NATO owned and operated aircraft. On 10 June the TCA landed in Geilenkirchen at 1630, after flying a total of 36,277 km in flights that went from NATO Air Base Geilenkirchen to Iceland, the U.S. state of Washington, Hawaii, Guam, Australia, Indonesia, Diego Garcia, Dubai, and back to the MOB. The TCA flight to Australia, providing logistics support for E-3A operations, included the transport of 50 Component personnel and more than 11.5 tons of cargo, mainly E-3A maintenance equipment.
"Back in 1519 a Portuguese maritime explorer with five ships and 270 men tried to find a westward route to Indonesia. His journey ended up as the first successful attempt in history to circumnavigate the Earth. In 1522, after almost three years and with only 18 men surviving, the first ever around-the-world trip became a reality. Today I am proud to say that all my men survived the very first time a NATO aircraft circumnavigated the world. With this trip the TCA squadron has proved, once again, that NATO Reaction Force (NRF) concept is something realistic," explains a proud TCA Squadron Commander.
Between 2 and 10 June the TCA conducted flights every day, except for one crew rest day in Dubai. The longest flight was 15.5 hours from Hawaii to Darwin, with only a short 'fuel and go stop' in Guam.
For the crew, crossing the equator was a special experience that involved the use of symbolism and ritual from the old traditions of sea travel.
"The fact that the TCA went around the world made it very unusual, and it is very rare to cross both the International Date Line and the Equator. Our mission success was in being there to support the E-3A when required. The TCA is a very reliable aircraft and everything worked out as scheduled", explains one of the TCA flight engineers.