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Hanscom’s C-130 trainer receives facelift

The aerial port training aide sits at Hanscom following extensive repairs performed by members of the 913th Airlift Wing. (Air Force photo by Jan Abate)

The aerial port training aide sits at Hanscom following extensive repairs performed by members of the 913th Airlift Wing. (Air Force photo by Jan Abate)

HANSCOM AIR FORCE BASE, Mass. -- Those who have been around Hanscom for any length of time may have seen the wingless and tailless C-130 Hercules somewhere near the flight line.

This 94-and-a-half foot long "Hulk" (as it was originally referred to) was built in 1955 and arrived on Hanscom some 27 years later in October 1982.

Its arrival drew lots of stares as well as media coverage as it traveled approximately 2,600 miles through 13 states on its way here from the Military Storage and Disposition Center at Davis-Monthan Air Force Base, Ariz.

In the early days, the "Hulk" was utilized by both the 57th and 85th Aerial Port Squadrons to conduct realistic training for APS members in loading and offloading cargo.

Formally, the aircraft fuselage is known as an aerial port training aide, or APTA. It belongs to the members of the 85th Aerial Port Squadron here.

Although it hasn't been off the ground in more than 25 years, 'old 5019,' as it is referred to by its tail number, still plays an important role in the training of 85th APS personnel as they keep their skills honed, said Senior Master Sgt. Joanne Boczanowski, 85th APS air transportation manager.

Additionally, 5019 has played major roles in numerous aircraft accident exercise scenarios conducted by the Hanscom Fire Department and Emergency Readiness Office.

Sergeant Boczanowski said that the fuselage is invaluable in maintaining the training proficiency for aerial port personnel.

"We use (it) for load team training, which is the uploading and downloading of cargo, pallets and vehicles," she said. "This helps members of the APS maintain their proficiency, which would be nearly impossible without this aide."

Through the years, 'old 5019' sat outside building 1715, across from the Hanscom Base Exchange, and when needed, was moved to various locations as the 85th APS conducted its training exercises.

Lately, the APTA has been positioned off the side of the runway down near the Federal Aviation Administration building located near the Civil Engineering compound.

Time and the ever-changing New England weather have taken their toll on the aircraft. Numerous water leaks, deteriorating seals and gaskets, as well as a faulty hydraulic system have reduced the aircraft's usefulness as a training aid.

Prior to Operation Iraqi Freedom, the APTA received yearly inspections and maintenance. Funds previously allocated for the APTA have been directed toward the war effort so APTA hasn't seen major repairs for more than three years, Sergeant Boczanowski said.

Now, thanks to the many long hours and hard work by a group of individuals from the 913th Maintenance Squadron and the 913th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron, both of which are part of 913th Airlift Wing, Willow Grove Air Reserve Station, Pa., 'old number 5019' is nearly ready to resume its role as a first class trainer, Sergeant Boczanowski said.

The old camouflage paint scheme is gone; APTA now sports more than 25 gallons of fresh new gray paint, new Air Force specified decals and freshly painted wheel rims.

Refurbished hydraulics and dual rail systems, door locks and several sheet metal patches have brought this old flyer back to life and ready to serve once more.

The seven-member composite team that made it happen was led by Master Sgt. Michael Effting, 913 MXS, who had his doubts upon first seeing the project.

"When we first arrived and looked her over, we were wondering if the effort was going to be worth it," he said.

In fact, to these experts, the plane was incredibly dilapidated-looking.

"They definitely had their work cut out for them," Sergeant Boczanowski said.

But now, "this training aid is 100 percent better," Sergeant Effting said, thanks to the hard work of this seven-person team.

The team, which finished a year-long activation Aug. 18, have been traveling to Hanscom from Willow Grove for week-long repair bonanzas once a month since May.

What couldn't be refurbished at Hanscom was removed and repaired at Willow Grove and then reinstalled upon the next visit to Hanscom.

Senior Master Sgt. Larry Savarese, 85th APS ramp superintendent, knows how difficult the work was. He personally observed the long hours and dedication demonstrated by the Willow Grove team.

"Without their efforts we would have had to shut down our load trainer for safety reasons," he said.

Sergeant Boczanowski added that she is hopeful the improvements will not stop when the Airmen depart.

"Ideally, we'd like to acquire the appropriate jump seats [web seats] for the APTA," she said.

"Having the APTA configured with jump seats will enhance our training efforts, as we convert from a cargo setting to a passenger setting," she continued. "We're looking now at ways we can acquire this additional equipment."

Adding his praise to the efforts of the men from the 913th was Maj. John Mailo, 85th Aerial Port Squadron commander.

"We can't say enough good things about them. Basically, they set up this aircraft so that it is 'new'," he said.

"We are very fortunate that with the recent draw downs and cutbacks that a unit with really no tie to Hanscom or Westover Air Reserve Base volunteered its time and efforts.

"It's a gift, and we're in debt to the members of the 913th," Major Mailo said.