Latest C-130J evolution arrives on desert ramp
by Capt. Vanessa Hillman
379th Air Expeditionary Wing Public Affairs
Airmen with the Rhode Island Air National Guard’s 143rd Airlift Squadron, the California ANG’s 146th AS and the Maryland ANG’s 135th AS joined forces here as the 746th Expeditionary Airlift Squadron supporting airlift missions in Iraq, Afghanistan and the Horn of Africa.
Looking at the aircraft from the outside, the untrained eye would be hard-pressed to see what the “J” fuss is about, but inside the aircraft it becomes obvious.
The removal of the manual cargo locking system that required the loadmaster to walk to the front of the bay to lock cargo down gives loadmasters a break, said Master Sgt. Kevin Dodd, a loadmaster with the 746th EAS deployed from the 143rd AS.
“There is no manual cranking of the cargo straps,” he said. “(In the J-model) you flip a switch throughout the plane to lock the cargo in place, cutting fatigue time down.”
Also, pilots can “feather” the props when loading and unloading troops.
With feathering, pilots “can turn the propellers as the troops walk in or out the back of the aircraft,” Sergeant Dodd said. This eliminates the massive blast in the faces of people boarding.
The high-tech Herk comes equipped with intense amount of avionics that are light years ahead of the previous models.
The new C-130J is a big flying computer, said Staff Sgt. Shea Reed of the 379th Expeditionary Aircraft Maintenance Squadron deployed from the 163rd AS. Combining such high technology and extreme desert heat can pose challenges for maintainers.
“Anything will have problems in this heat, and there is more of a tendency for the avionics to short out, but that’s something you can control,” she said. Especially with the J-model.
The improvement to the aircraft’s air-conditioning system, intended to prevent difficulties with the avionics, is a bonus to those who work on it, Sergeant Reed said.
New avionics means a new mindset for the crew, said Master Sgt. Kevin Givens of the 379th EAMXS’ avionics communications and navigation systems section deployed from the 143rd AS.
The plane went from one computer cable line to nine, with each having a redundant system, totaling 18, Sergeant Givens said. If a crew chief, loadmaster or other person on the team makes a change it can affect a number of other systems. It makes us work as a team he said.
“It creates a closer bond (among the crews),” Sergeant Givens said. “We get to learn more about their jobs, and they get to learn about ours.”
Avionics troubleshooting is another benefit of the new design, said Tech. Sgt. Russell Giroux, of the 379th EAMXS’ avionics communications and navigation systems section deployed from the 146th AS.
“Pilots and avionics technicians (get) more information to troubleshoot because the computer narrows what is wrong or gives you a fault code,” he said. “You find your answer faster, saving time and money.”
However, all the advances would make for one big paperweight without the bird’s new muscle.
“Power is what gives us the capability over the other models -- that is the biggest difference,” said Lt. Col. Dan Walter, 746th EAS operations officer deployed from the Rhode Island ANG.
The four upgraded engines deliver more raw power, equaling shorter takeoff distances, flying at higher altitudes and better fuel economy.
“The additional speed and certain circumstances can double the capability (of the previous C-130 models),” Colonel Walter said.
If two C-130s, one being a J-model, took off at the same time with equal cargo heading for the same destination, the J-model could arrive faster, aircrews could unload their cargo quicker and fly back with enough time to give them enough crew rest to fly another mission the next day, Colonel Walter said.
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