C-130H completely disassembled, ready for a closer look

  • Published
  • By Jenny Gordon
  • Robins Public Affairs
It's Day One. There's a flurry of activity getting a C-130H ready for further disassembly and a scheduled isochronal inspection as the aircraft moves through programmed depot maintenance at the Warner Robins Air Logistics Complex. 

The aircraft in our Home away from Home series has been on station since mid-August, silently migrating through its passage across the flight line, through various gates from induction and disassembly for depaint, to depaint operations, to disassembly for docks prior to its current destination in Bldg. 91.

The cavernous hangar, one of several dedicated to C-130 PDM, stays busy throughout the year with room for up to eight aircraft in various stages of work.

Roughly 1,400 hours of work include outside agencies that assist during this gate. 
Our C-130H will not move during the current Gate 4, a 15 calendar-day inspection phase. It will move once again when work is finally completed after its 38 days built into Gate 5, the repair and build-up phase.

Like a first-time visit to a major attraction, not everything can be fully understood and appreciated at first glance. It can take days, weeks, even months to behold the dynamic, complex matrix of constantly moving pieces that must work together to complete every single airframe. 

The overhead lights are bright. There's the constant noise from voices, and the steady hum of the building's ventilation system. Tools clank on metal, and flashlights peer into dark metal spaces. 

The mechanic's best friends are the glossy, red work benches, mobile work centers filled with everything a craftsman might need at his fingertips. Their relentless presence surrounds the perimeter of each aircraft. 

Production control boards stand guard near each work area. It lists details of the work ahead, things like dates, supervisor names, and major tasks to be accomplished. At this stage, as with every other, there's no question what needs to be done.  

"About 70 percent of the work on this aircraft gets done these last few weeks," said Charles Ray, 560th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron team lead. 

At this point, once the aircraft is towed into the hangar, work is prioritized, and things move swiftly as more than a dozen sheet metal mechanics, aircraft mechanics and hydraulics workers assemble maintenance stands for upcoming inspections.  

Although major parts were disassembled in the previous gate - such as the heavy cargo door, outboard and inboard flaps, and horizontal and vertical tail - some parts need to stay on so it can be towed to the next gate. 

The outboard engines were removed the first day; other parts begin to be routed to various back shops for inspection and repairs as needed. 

The engines sitting in a nearby hangar in the C-130 Engine Shop, are among a static display of many whose metal skins are peeled back a layer to expose the nozzles, plugs and labyrinth of components that help keep the aircraft safely flying in the air.            

Once they've been rolled out of the hangar, more than 56 hours of work on each engine will have been completed. The engine's oil is checked and drained, oil, fuel and hydraulic filters are checked, and inspections are conducted from front to back, to include the aircraft's propellers. 

"You could almost say we're a glorified gas station," said Steve Welchel, shop supervisor. "We change the oil, all the filters, lubricate it, check for issues, and then we put it back together on the aircraft." 

Back to our expectant aircraft in Bldg. 91. Aircraft mechanics are congregating on top of the wings, looking across its surface. 

On the floor, some like Wayne Skinner tinker with a flap asymmetry break, observing inside for any sign of corrosion or cracks. A retired flight engineer, the Air Force veteran enjoyed the unpredictable nature of his former career.

"Flight controls, landing gear, doors, hatches, windows ... here, I'm able to look at a little bit of everything on the airframe," he said. 

Another critical role at this juncture includes the nondestructive inspection of areas that can't be seen with the human eye. 

Possible corrosion issues, defects and cracks can be found at this point using common inspection methods with the use of boroscopes and X-ray; surface scans use an electromagnetic current and ultrasonic inspections offer a deeper look inside any metal.

Among the parts inspected are the wings, fuselage, fuel tanks, wheel well and flight control cables, engine cables, various fittings, attach points and others. 

"Part of our script that has helped us all along is that we know how everything flows," said Richard Clearwater, 560th AMXS production supervisor. "It keeps us focused." 

Once inspections are completed, it's time to move on to Gate 5, where the airframe will be built up again.