How did the Little Rock Air Force Base, Ark., C-130J crew turn a potentially catastrophic emergency, not covered in technical orders, into a relatively routine landing? The answer: training, teamwork and innovation.

The fact that this emergency took place at the C-130 Center of Excellence "schoolhouse" is significant. The crew, as with nearly all who fly with the 314th Airlift Wing at Little Rock, was only "half" qualified. "Half" meaning that because of the students on board, the only fully qualified crewmembers on the aircraft were the instructor pilot and instructor loadmaster.

This was especially significant in the back of the aircraft.

Remember, the student loadmaster was only on his second flight in a real airplane. Yet because of the quality of training he had received prior to arriving at the flight line, he was able to skillfully assist his instructor and be part of the solution. Working together to move pallets, remove covers and run checklists, the loadmasters gave a clear picture of the situation at hand to the pilots who relayed it to the ground agencies that were helping solve the problem. Were the student not as well trained, the situation could have been that much more difficult for no more reason than the evolution in the back of the aircraft would have taken much longer to complete.

Many different entities contributed to the crew's success that day. Had the crew been forced to deal with this emergency completely on their own, they may not have had the same happy ending.

Air traffic control was the first player involved. Getting the aircraft under radar coverage, moved to a safe holding area and clear of other traffic allowed the crew to concentrate on the emergency rather than dodging the swarm of other C-130s in Little Rock's radar and visual patterns. The base launches and recovers more than 50 C-130 training sorties per day.

Next was the supervisor of flying, Capt. Bryan Huffman.

Upon learning of the impending emergency, Huffman took over as the single point of communication between the crew and all the required support entities on the ground. He handled a multitude of tasks that contributed to the crew's success. One of the first things he did was contact the J-model squadron's director of operations, who in turn, came immediately to the control tower with his flight manual in hand. With the DO's technical expertise, Huffman was better able to coordinate response and provide the crew the help they needed.

Additionally, Huffman established a phone patch with yet another player in the mix: Lockheed Martin technical support services in Georgia. Being able to talk to the Lockheed engineers, the crew got expert advice from structural authorities on ways to deal with that day's unusual emergency.

Remember that the situation the crew found themselves in that day was not fully covered by any emergency procedure in the flight manual. There are procedures for lowering the landing gear when the normal hydraulic systems fail, but none of the written guidance was able to fully extend the aft landing gear to the full down and locked position.

So, the instructor loadmaster relied on two tools: his experience and his iPhone.

The sergeant's extensive experience as a former "E" and "H-model" C-130 loadmaster gave him one great advantage in this situation: He had used chains to secure unsafe landing gear in the past. Using chains for landing gear malfunctions is not covered in the J-model flight manual because of a different tie-down mechanism specifically designed for that aircraft.

The right main aft landing gear was still about 4 to 5 inches from full down. This seemingly small distance would not allow theJ-specific tie-downs to work. But the quick-thinking instructor was able to get chains around both the forward and aft gear assemblies and secure them in place for landing.

Rewind the clock 10 minutes. The fact that the gear was even as far down as it was can be attributed to the other aforementioned tool: the loadmaster's iPhone. The iPhone allowed the instructor to take and e-mail a picture of the landing gear damage to maintenance crews.

Here's the twist: Use of cell phones in flight is prohibited. But let's also consider one of the first sentences in the C-130 flight manual, "... This manual provides the best possible operating instructions under most circumstances, but is a poor substitute for sound judgment. Multiple emergencies, adverse weather, terrain, etc., may require modification of the procedures."

The iPhone pictures provided maintenance crews a much better understanding of the extensive gear damage and enabled experts on the ground to provide accurate, timely and sound advice to the crew.

Everything came together that day and the outcome speaks for itself; a relatively minor mishap, with minimal damage to a very expensive aircraft. Were it not for the professionalism and skill of all players, capitalization of modern and relevant training, base organizational synergies, and the innovative use of technology, the outcome may have been tragically different.

Nevertheless, if you're ever in an extreme situation and nothing seems to work, ensure the batteries in your cell phone are fully charged. Fly strong!

-- Lt. Joshua Fulcher