The US Air Force disciplined the crew of a “Hurricane Hunters” WC-130 Hercules aircraft after they landed at Martha’s Vineyard in late March to pick up a personal motorcycle, the 403rd Wing announced in a statement Wednesday.
Col. Stuart Rubio, the commander of the 403rd Wing, called the island stop an “abuse of government assets.” Each member of the five-person crew was downgraded on crew qualifications and the wing took administrative actions as well.
A downgrade in qualifications means each member of the crew lost ratings or credentials that will have to be earned back. For example, a pilot might lose an instructor rating and require more training and flight hours to once again attain that rating.
The Air Force Reserve crew flew out of Keesler Air Force Base in Mississippi, the home base of the 403rd Wing, on March 24, landing at Quonset Air National Guard Base in Rhode Island. A day later, the crew made an unscheduled stop in Martha’s Vineyard to pick up a 1970 BMW R75/5 motorcycle belonging to one of the crew members before continuing with the flight.
The crew then flew to Mather, California, to pick up equipment belonging to the wing for atmospheric river mission support, according to the statement. When the wing leadership found out about the Martha’s Vineyard landing on March 27, they grounded the crew.
“We hold our reservists to the highest standards of conduct and these actions are not tolerated,” Rubio said.
The “Hurricane Hunters” fly around and through tropical storms and hurricanes in the Atlantic Ocean, central Pacific Ocean, Caribbean Sea and Gulf of Mexico for the National Hurricane Center in Florida. The unit also flies winter storm missions.
The unit flies WC-130J Super Hercules aircraft equipped with specialized weather instrumentation that gathers data about the surrounding conditions. According to the unit’s website, the aircraft carries a crew of five: a pilot, co-pilot, navigator, flight meteorologist and weather reconnaissance loadmaster.