The first C-130J has arrived at Robins for PDM. The J model is the newest C-130, which has been in continuous production for over 50 years, a record for military aircraft. U. S. Air Force photo by Sue Sapp
First C-130J arrives for depot maintenance

by Wayne Crenshaw
78th Air Base Wing Public Affairs

5/6/2011 - ROBINS AIR FORCE BASE, Ga. -- C-130s fly into Robins on a regular basis for programmed depot maintenance, but one which landed April 26 is special.

It's the first C-130J to come here for PDM. The J model is the newest C-130, which has been in continuous production for more than 50 years, a record for military aircraft.

A team of maintenance and program office personnel has worked since January 2010 to prepare for its arrival. It was a significant task in part because the plane is so much more advanced than any other C-130, with digital cockpit gauges and a heads up display, more powerful Rolls Royce engines, more cargo capacity, and six-blade composite propellers.

Beverly Soles, chief of the C-130J/C-27J branch in the Aerospace Sustainment Directorate, called it a "major relief" to see the plane arrive.

"It was a concerted effort with basically a small group of people to get this plane here," she said, while standing outside the aircraft the day after it landed. "It means we have done the job we were supposed to, to get the 402nd Maintenance Wing ready to do the work."

The arrival of the aircraft is significant for another reason.

With the J model the C-130 maintenance section will for the first time use Maintenance Steering Group 3, which is based on the maintenance method of commercial airliners.

The primary purpose of MSG-3 is to avoid duplication of work done during field inspections, and thereby reduce the downtime of aircraft during PDM.

The C-130J will also involve another change in how depot-level maintenance is done.

Instead of undergoing traditional programmed depot maintenance, the C-130J will be put through the Progressive Maintenance Program. With standard PDM, all C-130s basically get the same things done. With PMP, however, maintainers will use a more tailored approach, examining exactly what each aircraft needs and not spending time on things it may not need.

The aircraft was built for the PMP process, Soles said.

Its computerized flight data recorder allows maintainers to plug in a laptop and instantly see faults which occurred while the plane was flying. It will help them better target what work needs to be performed.

Soles said the hope is with the successful implementation of PMP and MSG-3, the legacy side will eventually incorporate the techniques of those methods with high velocity maintenance. HVM adds the element of better support for mechanics, allowing them to spend more time working on the aircraft rather than tracking down parts and equipment.

"What is being worked now is to come up with a single concept for the C-130," she said.

Robert Lasseigne, chief of the C-130J Aircraft Sustainment Section in ASD, said the C-130J which arrived last week is a weather reconnaissance plane from Keesler Air Force Base, Miss. Most of the high-tech weather tracking equipment it normally carries was removed prior to coming here.

He said mechanics here received special training to work on the J model, and pilots in the 339th Flight Test Squadron also received special training so they can fly it. In fact, a 339th crew transported it here from Keesler.

Maj. Gary Goldsmith, the 339th pilot who commanded that mission, said the J model is "completely different" from other C-130s. Among other things, the heads up display "... gives you better situational awareness. It allows you to search for other traffic," he said.

The planes will come in at a rate of almost one a month for the next year, then the pace will steadily increase. The Air Force currently has 89 J models.

Andre Tucker, C-130 maintenance supervisor, said mechanics set to work on the aircraft are excited about it. Five are now in Little Rock, Ark., getting J model training.