NATO B707 TCA retirement
In 1988 and 1989 NATO acquired three modified Boeing 707-320Cs which entered service as Trainer Cargo Aircraft (TCA). Initially two-thirds of the sorties were training flights for the NATO Airborne Early Warning E-3A Component, the remainder being cargo flights in support of E-3A AWACS operations. In 1992 TCA flew humanitarian aid to Russia, right after the end of the Cold War. Soon the cargo transport became more and more of importance for the TCA Squadron. In the 23 year history of the squadron, relief flights were flown to all major disasters (including earthquakes and floods) in former Yugoslavia, Pakistan, Turkey, Haiti, USA and Hungary. More than once, a NATO TCA was the first aircraft to land in response to these events. During the operational commitments the motto of TCA personnel became “First in, last out”. Naturally, E-3A and NATO operations in the USA (after Sept. 11, 2001), Libyan and Afghan theatres were supported with the TCAs as well.
Boeing 707 TCA replacement
The TCA fleet is replaced by a single Boeing 757 Combi (OO-TFA) which will be leased from TNT Airlines for a period of 5 years. The 757 is scheduled to enter service around the 15th of January 2012. The aircraft is recently painted grey but unlike the NATO TCAs it won’t carry external (NATO) markings.
True work horse
People involved in the re-use of the airframe and aviation journalists were given the opportunity to fly with the final TCA (registration LX-N20199) on a mission to Forward Operating Base (FOB) Aktion in Greece. Flying under callsign NATO45 it carried 7500kg of spare parts in support of an upcoming E-3A deployment. Less than a week before its retirement the TCA went to Afghanistan proving once more to be a true workhorse for NATO.
NATO decided to donate the last TCA to the Aviation Competence Centre (ACC) at Maastricht-Aachen Airport. It will be used as a training object for students of ROC Leeuwenborgh. On 22 December 2011 the 42 year old lady touched down for the very last time. First the company Aircraft End-of-Life Solutions (AELS) will disassemble and dismantle the aircraft in a way the aircraft size be reduced to fit the ACCs needs. As far as economically and technically viable, parts of the aircraft will be re-used or recycled.
AELS, ACC and Leeuwenborgh are all part of the Maastricht Maintenance Boulevard which is trying to establish Maastricht Airport as a One Stop MRO (Maintenance, Repair, Operations) Shop.