Robins center set to receive first PDM C-130J|
by Wayne Crenshaw
78th Air Base Wing Public Affairs
4/22/2011 - ROBINS AIR FORCE BASE, Ga. -- C-130 maintenance at Robins will enter a new era April 26, 2011, with the arrival here of the first C-130J for depot maintenance.
The C-130J is the only model currently in production and represents significant aviation history as the C-130 -- with more than 50 years of service -- has the longest continuous production run of any other military aircraft.
Although externally the C-130J does not look a lot different from the first A-model to test fly in 1954, it has a number of significant differences from older models. It has Rolls-Royce engines and six-blade composite propellers as opposed to the four-blade aluminum propellers on most other C-130 aircraft -- giving it more take-off power and the ability to fly from shorter fields.
But its most noticeable difference is the cockpit, which has an array of digital displays as opposed to the mechanical gauges in other C-130s.
The aircraft is so modernized from other C-130s that Robins has been working for more than a year to prepare for heavy maintenance on the C-130J.
The preparation has involved a wide range of activities, such as building and sequencing work plans, acquiring specialized materials and equipment, and training mechanics. Numerous other support organizations have also been working to get ready for the new plane, said Gary Johnson, 560th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron program chief.
"A huge amount of work has gone into the planning for this aircraft," he said. "We are looking forward to the upcoming induction and are excited about this continuation of the C-130 program."
The Air Force currently has 89 C-130Js, and long-range projections call for a J-model fleet of 180 or more.
Also with the induction, the 560 AMXS will be going to a new maintenance strategy called the Progressive Maintenance Program. Joe Pirkle, J-Model flight chief, said PMP will use a more tailored approach to each aircraft rather than a "one size fits all" approach.
A benefit of the J-model in that approach is its technology, which will allow maintainers to plug in a computer and immediately see flight data helpful to determining where work is needed.
"This is the next step in C-130 depot-level maintenance," Mr. Pirkle said.
Once the first C-130J arrives, more will steadily come at a pace of almost one per month the first year, and it will steadily increase in the years to come. However, it won't necessarily mean a need for many more C-130 mechanics as older C-130s will be retiring.
The C-130 is one of the most versatile planes of all time. Although it is mainly used for cargo, other uses include intelligence and surveillance, weather reconnaissance, airborne assault, scientific research support, aerial refueling, medical evacuation, and search and rescue. It is also commonly used in humanitarian missions, such as delivering relief supplies to Japan.
Mr. Johnson said it's no wonder the plane has remained in production.
"It's a tremendously versatile, maintainable aircraft," he said. "It's a workhorse."