C-130 mechanics beat repair deadline for gunship

  • Published
  • By Amanda Creel
  • 78th Air Base Wing Public Affairs
When Aircraft 89-0512, an AC-130U Spooky, arrived at Robins AFB for program depot maintenance, it was given an accelerated schedule of only 150 days to complete. This was 31 days less than the standard 181 days for such an aircraft and many wondered if the members of the 560th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron could complete the aircraft on schedule.

The answer was yes, with time to spare.

As if that wasn't a big enough accomplishment for the C-130 Hercules maintainers, the aircraft required more than the scheduled maintenance. The additional maintenance alone normally would have taken 65 days to complete.

"I thought it would be a miracle if we got it out in 150 days, and you did it in 146," said Brig. Gen. Bradley A. Heithold while speaking to the mechanics at a release ceremony for the gunship Jan. 22.

General Heithold, vice commander of the Warner Robins Air Logistics Center, commended all the maintainers for a job well done and stressed the importance of the aircraft and how vital it is to the war effort.

Some of the additional maintenance the gunship required included the repair of the center wing box; new rainbow fittings, which requires the removals of the wings and new fittings to be placed for the wings to sit-in; bonded and boron repairs, which are composite patches used to help protect the aircraft from corrosion and wear; and polyurethane work, which is where they remove flaking polyurethane from the fuel tank.

"It was all teamwork. Everyone was pushing on this aircraft," said Winston Slappey, an aircraft logistics specialist.

The aircraft has three missions -- close-air support such as convoy escorts, air interdiction conducted against preplanned or targets of opportunity, and force protection such as air base or facilities defense.

"Once everyone found out how important the mission of that aircraft was, we were ready to work," said George Hoffman, a flight C-130 team lead.

The gunship is known for its ability to visually or electronically identify friendly ground forces or targets at any time of day and anywhere in the world. The AC-130U has a 25 mm Gatling gun that is able to fire 1,800 rounds per minute and has a rapid fire 40 mm cannon and a 105 mm Howitzer.

"We were bound and determined we were going to make that schedule," said Joel Donihoo, a C-130 production flight chief.

When the aircraft arrived, the mechanics were expected to dedicate 18,246 man-hours to prepare the aircraft to return to the fight. When it was completed Jan. 18, the maintainers had invested 27,227 man-hours, 8,981 man-hours above what was scheduled due to the additional workload required. The aircraft passed the functional check flight during the first flight.

Mr. Hoffman said this was a big accomplishment because gunships generally take more than one flight to pass.

"The fly-buy (the FCF) was the icing on the cake," he said.

The completion of the aircraft four days early was attributed to the realization of how important that aircraft is to the warfighter.

Joy Henderson, a C-130 sheet metal mechanic, said the knowledge of the mission makes it easy to spend the extra days and hours working to return the aircraft to the warfighter.

"I have two children who are in the Air Force and every time I work on an aircraft I remember that could be my child on that aircraft. It's not just a job, as a mother it's more. It's not just my kids who could be relying on that plane, it's a lot of mother's kids who are relying on it," said Ms. Henderson, whose son, Jamey Henderson, is active duty and her daughter, Candy Griffin, is a reservist.

Though not all the mechanics have a maternal instinct when it comes to the gunship's mission, all the mechanics know the warfighter depends on the support of this aircraft.

"We were on it (Aircraft 89-0512) from the very start, 12 hours a day, seven days a week, and knowing where it is going and what its mission is a real motivation," said Jeff Smith, a member of the aircraft fuel team.

No matter how important the mission, without a team effort from 560th AMXS members and other base members from units such as the 402nd Commodities Maintenance Group, the mechanics agreed the gunship would still be undergoing maintenance. Instead the gunship departed Jan. 22 and returned to its mission and the fight against terrorism.

"It's a good feeling to get that plane out and back to the guys waiting on it to get their job done," said Adam Rodgers, an aircraft mechanic and former Marine.

Comment on this story (comments may be published on Air Force Link)

Click here to view the comments/letters page