The 174th Attack Wing is looking to make history again as early as this summer by flying its remotely piloted planes out of Hancock Field without any chase airplane support.
For the ten months now the unit has been flying off Hancock Field a plane from the Civil Air Patrol follows behind the MQ-9 Reaper just in case the MQ-9 Reaper is unable to detect something in the air it needs to avoid.
The 174th had hit some funding bumps with its own ground based sense and avoid system to make the chase plane unnecessary but now expects to utilize a system in use by the Army.
Until last June the 174th had been flying its aircraft from the military airfield at Fort Drum.
The move to Syracuse was the first time and remains the only program in the nation where remotely piloted military planes take off and land right alongside commercial and general aviation planes.
174th Attack Wing Commander Col. Mike Smith tells NewsChannel 9, “Once they saw us and we mixed right into the traffic pattern they’re like, and this is what we expected, ‘oh they’re just another aircraft’ and that’s really what we are.”
The program at the 174th’s Hancock Field base has eliminated daily road trips to Fort Drum saving taxpayers about a $1-million in just travel related costs.
It has also allowed the unit to increase flight training up by 25%. The Air Force is looking to expanding the program even more.
“The more that we do here the more people that show up it really does become a center of excellence.” Smith says.
Increasing the 174th’s mission not only expands the base with what they expect to be new construction out there but also grows the local economy by adding more permanent jobs to the area.