Wednesday, December 21, 2005

TOP STORY >> C-130Js pass tough test in cold Alaskan climate

Leader staff writer

Two C-130J cargo aircraft from Little Rock Air Force Base have been proven ready for war in all types of weather after finishing two weeks of cold-weather evaluations at Eielson Air Force Base, Alaska, that ended Dec. 14.

Operational testing of the C-130J, which began in November, will determine whether the plane will meet full operational requirements. Previous evaluations conducted in 1999 and 2000 looked at the plane’s ability to perform basic tasks.

Before returning to Little Rock Air Force Base, Maj. Dave Flynn, 48th Airlift Squadron operational test and evaluation mission commander, said, “We performed all cold-weather test objectives, and our mission here is complete.”

The 48th Airlift Squadron worked with members of the Air Force Operation Test and Evaluation Center from Ed-wards Air Force Base in California during the rigorous testing. The results of the evaluations will be released in a report in the spring.

When the two C-130J aircraft landed at Eielson Air Force Base Dec. 6, temperatures in interior Alaska were about the same as Arkansas.
“The only real difference is the snow on the ground,” said Senior Airman Jacob Erskin, 314th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron guidance and control craftsman.

Known to many Alaskans as Chinook Winds, the warmer-than-usual weather was courtesy of a front pushing warm air from the Gulf of Alaska into Alaska’s interior, bringing daytime temperatures to above freezing. The temperatures eventually dipped into the minus-30 degree range, which is considered normal temperatures for the Air Force’s farthest-north base.

“We were working on the plane in layers of our winter gear and we would begin sweating and have to take off layers to cool down, but since it is winter in Alaska and we would quickly begin to feel the cold again,” said Tech. Sgt. Terry Ben-son, 314th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron hydraulics technician.

“We were going from hot to cold and then bundle up and get hot again. It seemed like it was never a happy medium,” Benson said. “It was still pretty cold during the evenings.”

Since 2004, testing included formation flying, airdrop events, traffic collision avoidance system tests, computer-based approach testing and the most comprehensive noise and vibration tests ever conducted on the C-130J.

It is not yet known if Little Rock Air Force Base will receive any additional C130Js in 2006. Reports put the cost of each Super Hercules between $45 and $65 million.

Tech. Sgt. William Farrow of the 314th Airlift Wing contributed to this story.