3/14/2014 - ROBINS AIR FORCE BASE, Ga. -- It's like slowly pulling a tooth. Teams from across the Warner Robins Air Logistics Complex gathered in Bldg. 110 recently to witness something that's never happened here before - the complete nose separation of a C-130H from its fuselage.
This particular mission at Robins is significant not only politically - it will be one of two C-130H models scheduled to be delivered to the Afghan Air Force this year - but once again showcases the experience and capabilities here when it comes to a structural undertaking of this magnitude.
"I was extremely pleased with the teamwork and coordination between the system program office engineers, quality, safety and our maintenance personnel during this Herculean effort," said Jim Russell, 560th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron director. "They once again proved this complex can safely and expertly handle any maintenance task."
Due to a hard landing, the C-130H experienced major structural damage to its nose, which was removed March 6.
An engineering team from the Air Force Life Cycle Management Center and 402nd Aircraft Maintenance Group C-130 maintainers is moving ahead to remove another nose from a second donor aircraft which was scheduled to be retired. The nose from that donor aircraft will be installed on the AAF-bound aircraft within the next few weeks.
The nose repair - unscheduled depot level maintenance - was delicately disassembled at the factory break. The 360-degree nose section included a labyrinth of electrical and hydraulic components, engine cables, oxygen lines and air conditioning systems.
Maintenance crews were scheduled separately to remove their responsible areas.
"We had a lot of homework to do before we started this project," said Scott Latimer, 560th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron's Center Wing Box Fixtures team lead. A total of 364 bolts - what held the 9,000-pound nose section to the fuselage - were manually removed, some more easily than others.
While the disassembly process took nearly three weeks, it only took about 90 minutes from the time the final bolts were removed until the nose completely separated.
A dolly, specially designed here, sat under the nose section as it was slowly separated with a hand-operated 'come-along,' or ratchet lever winch.
Teams will assess the aircraft's mating surfaces for corrosion and cracks, clean and polish the holes where the bolts were, and perform nondestructive testing techniques to inspect the aircraft for any unknown conditions.
When all the criteria have been met on the removal and inspection of the second donor nose, the next major event will be marrying that to the AAF-bound aircraft.
A team from Robins visited Lockheed Martin in Marietta to learn how maintainers there performed that operation.
Both 1974 airframes arrived at Robins last fall. In order to prepare them for the work ahead, active duty personnel from the 402nd Expeditionary Depot Maintenance team first removed large pieces of the aircraft, including its wings, horizontal and vertical stabilizers, ramp, engines and cargo doors.
"This project wouldn't be moving along as quickly if not for the team efforts of active duty Air Force and civil service," said Latimer.
Considering the aging fleet of the aircraft, this C-130H will be better than new when finished.
It will not only have a new nose, but a recently replaced center wing box prior to its delivery overseas.
The remaining parts of the donor aircraft will be used for aircraft battle damage and repair training.
While a lot of attention has been focused on this project, there is a second C-130H on station scheduled for a standard programmed depot maintenance package.
That aircraft is also bound for Afghanistan.
The AAF successfully received its first two C-130H aircraft in October 2013, according to the Afghanistan International Security Assistance Force.
The move will help boost the country's military capabilities as they lead their country's security.
To view additional photos and a video of the nose removal, visit www.robins.af.mil and Robins Facebook page.