Friday, November 12, 2010

184th Fighter Squadron pilot talks about Afghanistan combat deployment

Andy Vaughan

BizAv Warrior: Andy Vaughan

By David A. Lombardo
Aviation International News
November 10, 2010

Some in the business aviation industry leave behind their families and jobs to serve in active war zones. In the continuing AIN series intended to recognize those in our community who defend the way of life we continue to enjoy back home, senior editor David A. Lombardo spoke with Hawker Beechcraft test and demonstration pilot Andy Vaughan about his recent service in Afghanistan. This is Vaughan's story. If you or someone you know in business aviation is in harm's way on our behalf, we'd like to hear from you.

Andy Vaughan
Captain and A-10 Warthog pilot–Arkansas Air National Guard
AT-6 test and demonstration pilot Hawker Beechcraft

My dad is David Vaughan, v-p of marketing for Jet Aviation Teterboro. Since before I was born he has run FBOs all over the country, first for Butler Aviation then Signature. He has been a major influence in my life," Andy Vaughan, an A-10 Warthog pilot and captain in the Arkansas Air National Guard, told AIN.

"Over the years we've lived in Fort Lauderdale, Newark, Baltimore and Houston, but from 1980 to 1989, until I was about 14, we lived in Louisville. Dad would take me to work with him and there was an Air National Guard unit on the airport. I loved watching those F-4 Phantoms and knew that's what I wanted to do," he said.

Vaughan started flying at age 15 when the family lived in Baltimore. "I went to Purdue University for a business degree, joined the flying club and continued to get my ratings until I graduated in 1998. I then went to Embry-Riddle Daytona for an MBA, graduated in 2000 and went to work for Raytheon as a Beechcraft contract pilot," he said.

After about a year Vaughan joined the Air National Guard, and he went on active duty to attend basic flight training, A-10 school and survival school.

"I chose to join the Guard over active-duty Air Force so I could have more control over my military career and continue working in general aviation. I was on active duty about seven years, got out in 2008 and transferred into the Arkansas Air National Guard because it had recently converted from the F-16 to the A-10."

Vaughan returned to Hawker Beechcraft to fly King Airs and piston products and has since moved up to be a test and demonstration pilot on the new AT-6 Texan II.

"We've partnered with Lockheed Martin to build the aircraft and we've essentially put all the components and software from the A-10 into the AT-6 turboprop and upgraded the engine to a 1,600-shp PT6-68D," he said.

This past spring Vaughan was deployed to Kandahar Air Base, Afghanistan, to provide close air support for U.S. and Nato ground forces. He flew 32 combat sorties in the A-10, for a total of 130 combat hours providing close air support and gathering intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance data for American and Nato forces in convoys, foot patrols, during IED (improvised explosive device) route-clearing operations and responding to "troops in contact" situations.

Much of that time was spent searching for IEDs by loitering at altitude in a given area looking for a heat signature on the ground that would indicate something had recently been buried.

"An average sortie for me was six to eight hours, which would include air-to-air refueling two or three times. We're just up there watching areas of interest with our targeting pod looking for guys planting IEDs," he said.

"The A-10 is built around a GAU-8 30-mm cannon; we have a lot of firepower, but there are tight rules of engagement. I would watch someone plant an IED but then I had to track him back to his house while waiting for authorization to engage him. If he actually entered his house before I got the OK to engage, we weren't allowed to fire because of the heavy emphasis on not incurring collateral casualties. You can only engage upon approval and then only if he's out in the open.

"Too many times I've watched convoys get hit with an IED in a road only to have the Taliban open fire with machine guns on the rest of the convoy. I provide air support and do my best to keep the hostile fire down and simultaneously provide directions to the medevac, but it can be very frustrating," he said.

Vaughan says Hawker Beech has always been supportive of his career in the Guard. "The company has been completely understanding and accommodating of my military duties. While I was away my coworkers stepped up and filled in for me by picking up my duties and flying extra hours."

He concluded, "Being in the U.S. one day and Afghanistan the next gives you a different perspective of what we have in this country. We live in the greatest country in the world and I hope people appreciate it. Being in the military has shown me just how good we've got it here.


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