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C-130 PDM
During the next several months, Robins Public Affairs will document the programmed depot maintenance of a C-130H from Yokota Air Base, Japan. We will highlight various stages of the process, telling the stories of the people and organizations who make the mission happen here every day. (U.S. air Force photo by Ed Aspera)
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Home away from home

Posted 9/5/2014   Updated 9/5/2014 Email story   Print story


by Jenny Gordon
Robins Public Affairs

9/5/2014 - ROBINS AIR FORCE BASE, Ga. -- During the next several months, Robins Public Affairs will document the programmed depot maintenance of one C-130H from Yokota Air Base, Japan. We will highlight various stages of the process, telling the stories of the people and organizations who make the mission happen here every day.

When it comes to maintaining aircraft, Team Robins members make sure they cover everything. Once an aircraft arrives at the Warner Robins Air Logistics Complex for programmed depot maintenance, a network of well-documented puzzle pieces must successfully fit together from the moment its wheels touch the flight line until its wings carry it back to home station.

Let's take a look at one particular aircraft - a C-130H which was built in 1974 and still performs missions around the world to this day.

It arrived at its new home away from home Aug. 22 at 6 p.m., an early Friday evening much like any other, except this specific C-130H had just travelled thousands of miles across the Pacific Ocean and continental U.S.

Its home is with the 374th Airlift Wing, the host unit at Yokota Air Base, Japan.

The base, located near Tokyo, was opened by the Imperial Japanese Army in 1940, and was turned over to American occupation forces in 1945.

According to base history accounts, it was then that the base became an air cargo installation, and in 1974 became home to U.S. Forces Japan.

In 1978, the 316th Tactical Airlift Group, a component of the 374th Tactical Airlift Wing, arrived at Yokota to supervise C-130 intra-theater airlift, with the wing eventually transferring from Clark Air Base in the Philippines.

With well-written accounts of its ability to operate missions across various military commands, the C-130 is said to be the go-to aircraft, performing global airlift operations from sometimes difficult landing and takeoff strips, to airdropping troops and equipment, and aerial delivery for humanitarian assistance.

It's been around for much of the latter half of the 20th century, with the C-130H first deployed in June of 1974.

Now, fast forward to 2014, and this C-130 is being prepared for an extremely thorough once over by nearby skilled mechanics.

During the next six months it will be here, floating through different locations as it moves through various processes, or gates, within the complex.

A total of 791 mechanics and support personnel in the 560th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron will handle most of the details throughout - men and women who are aircraft mechanics, sheet metal workers and electricians. Avionics, and hydraulics specialists will perform work on the plane, and planners, schedulers and forward logistics specialists will also roll up their sleeves.

Other areas include management and program analysts, administrative and program specialists, logistics management and equipment specialists, tool and parts attendants and production supervisors.

"There are so many things that feed into the C-130 PDM line," said Al Hainse, 560th AMXS PDM Flight chief. "There is a method to the madness."

After arriving, the aircraft was first marshaled to the "X," a designated location where the crew disembarks, personal belongings are removed, and the aircraft is signed over by its air crew.

Mark Marley, 560th AMXS aircraft mechanic, will have boarded the plane, and for about an hour, taken countless, detailed pictures. He does so for every incoming C-130.

"It's for accountability, but also to identify any defects or damages to the aircraft when it gets here," he said. "For example, I photograph every antenna, every panel, every part of the plane's exterior, wheel wells, the flight deck ... everything."

Photos are saved and available for use by planners and engineers during PDM.

He also takes inventory of the plane, removing personal equipment and other loose items, which are stored for safekeeping.

The induction phase is part of Gate 1, which also includes a disassembly process for de-paint operations. That work will be completed this week.

There are seven gates every plane at Robins passes through. After incoming operations checks are performed, each plane must first be de-fueled. The aircraft we're following for this story had about 1,000 gallons removed from its tanks by a member of the 78th Logistics Readiness Squadron Fuels Service Center.

Other tasks at this stage will involve the removal of many items, including flight controls and floorboards, as the aircraft is being prepped for whether it will need a full de-paint or wash-only prior to its move to Gate 2.

In Gate 3, it's disassembled, and more parts are removed, such as the cargo door and wing leading edges. Fuel tank foam is removed from most of the wing fuel tanks, as well as plumbing and pumps, bladders and wings, if required.

This plane will require an isochronal inspection, conducted at Gate 4, before moving to Gate 5 for Repair and Build-Up. At that stage she's basically made whole again.

Once the aircraft is completely re-assembled, Gate 6 is where aircraft are painted as needed. After paint, the aircraft gets weighed and balanced, and then avionics checks are performed on all instruments and avionics systems disturbed during the PDM process. Once the avionics checks are completed, it moves to Gate 7 for Functional Check Flight.

Editor's note
So, you think you know PDM at Robins? Journey with us during the next several months to learn more about the people and processes which make this incredible production machine move forward.

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