Stripped Away: C-130 readied for inspection as workers disassemble parts

  • Published
  • By Jenny Gordon
  • Robins Public Affairs
Home away from Home - Over the next several months, The Rev-Up will document the programmed depot maintenance of a C-130H during its time at the Warner Robins Air Logistics Complex. We'll highlight   various stages of the PDM process, telling the stories    of the people and organizations behind this critically important mission.

When it comes to maintaining a versatile, dynamic weapon system like the   C-130, the first step is taking it apart to make sure everything works properly.   

Once a C-130 arrives at the Warner Robins Air Logistics Complex for programmed depot maintenance, every task happens for a reason. Every step prepares it for a future state. In this case, disassembly for docks in Gate 3.

As if stripping away paint wasn't enough, mechanics recently disassembled various parts of the aircraft we've been following in our series. 

Its metal, previously hidden under layers of monochrome gray paint, lay exposed to the changing temperatures of Middle Georgia. 

She doesn't get to move around much. In time she will be whole again, but not on this day.

With a goal of nine days, a C-130's production flow at Gate 3 begins first with a tow to its temporary home. 

A distant glance captured the aircraft sitting silently, parked under an indiscriminate shelter on the Robins flight line. 

Removing things at this stage happens quickly. Various parts need to come off for the next inspection phase to take place. 

The heavy cargo door is peeled off. Prepping and removing its outboard and inboard flaps from the wings happens in less than an hour.

That includes bringing in a crane to assist with operations. Ropes are tied to secure the flaps as final bolts are loosened, then it can be gently lowered to the ground and placed on a waiting dolly. The flaps make their way to various backshops for inspection and maintenance. In this case, across the flight line to the 402nd Aircraft Maintenance Group and 402nd Commodities Maintenance Group. 

There's a slight delay prior to removing the aircraft's horizontal and vertical tail. The reason? Too much wind. 

During the same hour that crews were looking at the tail, a warning that crosswinds greater than or equal to 15 knots was issued. 

According to Rocky Dill, C-130 first line supervisor, 20 knots is the maximum before work is delayed. In order to safely remove the tail, work continued the following day.

Removing foam baffles located in the fuel tanks in both wings also happens at this stage. Foam helps prevent fuel slosh, and is wrapped around pumps, tubing and other components. Each piece - along with plumbing parts - is removed so inspection can occur in the areas they occupy. 

One thing you can't be afraid of in this particular line of work is confined, dark spaces. 

Members of a C-130 strip crew climb up and enter through two openings along the aircraft's center wing box. Its size is best described as similar to large pet doors people install in their homes for convenience. 

Bottom line? It's not that big. 

On some areas of the wing you can open a lid and effortlessly reach inside to remove foam. But there are other areas where crews must crawl into one of several cavities to extract pieces. 

Sometimes you only have a few inches all the way around to squeeze yourself several feet forward. Yellow braces on the inside stand in the way. If an employee is bigger than average size, some of the braces are removed. 

Then once you have a handful of foam, you backtrack on your stomach on the way out and hand it to someone to place in storage bags. Eight workers assist with the removal process.  

"You can't be claustrophobic," said David Wilson, a C-130 work lead who has been at Robins for nine years.            

"I don't know how to explain it," he said with a laugh. "You go head first into a tank. For somebody like me, it's pretty tight." 

About 300 bags are filled with the foam from more than 25 cavities over two days. They're stored in small trailers and reused later. If the foam is unusable, it's tossed in metal containers and discarded. 

It's tedious work. Everything taken out will assist other workers when it's their turn to tackle a job. When inspections are completed over the next several weeks and the repair and build-up phase happens, the foam will be put back into the aircraft.