Monday, March 09, 2009

TOP STORY >> Base checks C-130 wings for bad parts

Leader staff writers

All 596 C-130s in the Air Force — including all 68 C-130J models — are being inspected here and abroad for cracks in the wing-joint barrel nuts, according to Roger Drinnon, a spokesman for the Air Mobility Command at Scott Air Force Base in Illinois.

Roughly 20 percent of those aircraft are based at Little Rock Air Force Base. None of the planes here have been grounded while they’re inspected and repaired.

“Our number one thing is to make sure that it is safe in the air for our mission,” Col. Greg Otey, 19th Airlift Wing commander at LRAFB, said Friday. “Some of it could be aging, but we’re checking all C-130s.”

Maintainers at Little Rock Air Force Base began inspecting the 80-plus C-130s here Thursday night. Crews found the bad barrel nuts on about one-third of the aircraft inspected, according to Tech. Sgt. Steven Hood, a maintainer.

Hood said there are 13 nuts per wing, and it will take about four hours per plane, roughly a couple days, to make the repairs.

“It’s pretty routine,” said Hood. “You’re swapping out hardware.”

Deployed aircraft are allowed to fly for a certain amount of time, in times of war before inspections are performed, according to Otey. He said inspections haven’t caused many delays for the base.

“We work 24 hours a day, so the next shift comes on and it becomes a priority,” he said.

Drinnon said the plan is to inspect each plane before its next flight. The immediate action inspection order also includes C-130s operated by the National Guard, the Coast Guard and other forces.

Lockheed Martin, the manufacturer, is charged with notifying allies and owners of C-130s throughout the world.

Drinnon said the C-130Js, which are doing the work of thousands of truck convoys in Iraq and Afghanistan, also were being inspected.

The problem was discovered during routine maintenance to a C-130 Hercules at Robbins Air Force Base in Georgia and the Air Force issued an immediate action order.

He said no accidents, incidents or crashes were known to be attributable to failed wing-joint barrel nuts.