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C-130 mechanics beat repair deadline for gunship

  • Published
  • By Amanda Creel
  • 78th Air Base Wing Public Affairs
ROBINS AIR FORCE BASE, Ga -- When an AC-130U gunship arrived at the Warner Robins Air Logistics Center for Program Depot Maintenance, maintainers were given 150 days versus the standard 181 days to complete the task.

Even optimists wondered whether the 560th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron could complete the task.
The answer was yes, with time to spare.

As if that wasn't a big enough accomplishment for the C-130 maintainers, once the aircraft arrived it became evident this aircraft would require more than scheduled maintenance.

The additional maintenance the gunship required would normally take 65 days and included the repair of the center wing box, new rainbow fittings, bonded and boron repairs and removal of flaking polyurethane from the fuel tank.

"I thought it would be a miracle if we got it out in 150 days, and you did it in 146," said Brig. Gen. Brad Heithold, vice commander of the WRALC, while speaking at a release ceremony for the gunship Jan. 21.

"Everyone was pushing on this aircraft," said Winston Slappey, aircraft logistics specialist.

The aircraft has three missions: close air support, air interdiction and force protection.

"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, anywhere in the world.

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

When the aircraft arrived, the mechanics were expected to dedicate 18,246 man-hours to the aircraft. When it was completed Jan. 18, the maintainers had invested 27,227 man-hours.
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.

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 on the aircraft.

"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.

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 it.

"We were on it (AC512) 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 and other supporting units such as the 402nd Commodities Maintenance Group, the mechanics agreed the gunship would still be undergoing maintenance.

"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.