The C-130 Docs are in
By Capt. Cheryl L. Mead, Commander, 103rd Maintenance Operations Flight
/ Published August 01, 2015
BRADLEY AIR NATIONAL GUARD BASE, East Granby, Conn. -- You are going TDY and taking one of our C-130 Hercules aircraft. Bags are packed and you are waiting to get on the bus to go out to the plane. All of the sudden, a call comes across the radio; the plane you were just about to get on was found to have a leak during a final inspection and now it can't fly. Just 30 minutes earlier, there was no leak and everything was ready to go as scheduled.
With owning some of the most mature C-130s in the Air Force, the status of an aircraft can change in a matter of seconds from no problems, to minor problems that don't prevent flight, to major problems that ground the aircraft. This is why the health of our fleet is the top priority for the 103rd Maintenance Group.
Fixing airplane problems used to involve some trial and error or you had to have personnel with an extensive knowledge of the particular airframe on site. Today, there are more advanced analytical capabilities enabling us to get a clearer picture of the health of our aircraft. To get a better idea of this, let's use the analogy of a doctor.
When you go to the doctor for a physical, the doctor comes in with their tablet that has your whole medical history on it. They are checking your overall health, following up on any known issues they are monitoring, or seeing if you have any new ailments since your last visit. Our maintainers are able to look at the same type of information for our aircraft to ensure its overall health--not just for today, but for many years to come.
As with all things though, our aircraft have a life expectancy. The life span is calculated in hours and certain missions put more hours or "stress" on a plane which can shorten its life. Once a plane has flown those hours, the integrity of the aircraft is no longer reliable and has to be retired. Our C-130s are 40 years old and we want them to have the most productive and longest life possible. That is why it is so vitally important that our maintenance personnel know these planes inside and out, just like your doctor has to know you. To do this, they have to use a comprehensive approach to fleet health management. They have to diagnose problems down to the root cause and develop a permanent solution the first time, so the same issue does not happen again. Here at Bradley, our repeat rate is 0.52 percent for the entire fiscal year, well below the Guard's standard of 1.5 percent. This is a good indicator of the level of maintenance being performed, having these aircraft for only about 18 months now. Maintainers also use the historical data they have at their fingertips and work face-to-face with the Rolls Royce and Lockheed Martin representatives to develop solid prognoses. In doing this, they can understand the aircraft's all-around health to anticipate any future failures or recommend improvements that would benefit the entire C-130H community.
So next time you go to get on one of our Flying Yankee C-130s and something seems to go wrong, remember we are here to make sure it's just a sprain, not a fracture. I'm extremely proud to be a part of an organization where Airmen take such pride in the aircraft they work on every day.