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AMC continues to meet warfighters' needs

3/1/2005 - SCOTT AIR FORCE BASE, Ill. (AFPN) -- Air Mobility Command officials said they remain confident they will continue to meet their worldwide airlift and training requirements despite the AMC-directed grounding and restrictions of a portion of the Air Force's C-130 Hercules fleet.

Gen. John W. Handy, commander of AMC and U.S. Transportation Command, directed the groundings and restrictions Feb. 9 based on recommendations by officials at the C-130 System Program Office at Robins Air Force Base, Ga.

Command officials said they are now considering a variety of options to ensure mission and training requirements are met, including training crews in different C-130 models and conducting portions of training in the restricted aircraft.

"We are going to do whatever it takes with the number of planes we have, no matter where they are located, to meet our warfighters' needs," said Col. Russell Deluca, chief of AMC's operations management division. "We have full confidence that we can continue to execute their needs with a total-force answer. As a total force, we have plenty of C-130s to meet the warfighters' needs."

The C-130 grounding and restriction has not caused a significant disruption to support for operations Iraqi Freedom and Enduring Freedom, officials said. No aircraft in theater were grounded by the announcement, and fully-operational replacements for the restricted aircraft are available.

"As part of the next (air and space expeditionary force) rotation cycle, we are currently deploying crews (and) using unrestricted aircraft as replacements for the restricted aircraft," Colonel Deluca said. "They are just coming off their training cycle, and this was their scheduled time to deploy."

AMC officials also are looking to begin conducting "difference training" with their C-130 crews, the colonel said. The training, which takes about one week per crew, will allow more crews to be qualified in different C-130 models, taking full advantage of the total-force C-130 inventory, officials said.

"We will have E-model active-duty crews learning to fly Guard and Reserve H-models and maybe vice versa," Colonel Deluca said. "In the end, it is going to have to be a total-force plan where the Guard, Reserve and active-duty (Airmen) help sustain the AOR's airplanes."

Aircraft maintainers will also undergo difference training to ensure they can maintain the different model C-130s in theater, said Lt. Col. Adam Dickerson, commercial derivatives branch chief in AMC's logistics directorate.

While difference training will help alleviate in-theater demands, Colonel Deluca said many training requirements can be met using the restricted aircraft.

"There are more capabilities available for training than you would think," he said. "While the restrictions limit the amount of cargo carried and some flight capabilities, certain portions of the training (syllabi) can be accomplished using the affected aircraft as long as the other portions are performed with unrestricted planes."

As for a permanent fix to the issue of cracks in the center wing box, Colonel Dickerson said, "A team of Air Force experts have assembled to evaluate options and make recommendations . . . in the near future."

The groundings and restrictions were recommended by engineers at the SPO after cracks discovered in the center wing box were greater in number and severity than predicted. This caused the engineers to re-evaluate the service life of the center wing box. Based on this evaluation and an assessment by an independent review team, SPO officials recommended imposing flight restrictions for any aircraft that exceeded 38,000 equivalent baseline hours and grounding any aircraft that exceeded 45,000 EBH. EBH is a calculation that combines an aircraft's flying hours with a severity factor multiplier for the type of missions the plane has flown. General Handy concurred with this recommendation and directed 30 C-130s to be grounded and 60 more restricted for exceeding the EBH thresholds.

Based on their analysis of findings from a series of inspections, engineers at the SPO also set standards to ensure that the aircraft can operate safely while performing their assigned missions.

Restrictions placed on the 60 C-130s ensure safe operations by minimizing stress to C-130 wings, officials said. Restrictions include limiting the maximum gross operating weight and maximum payload carrying capability. The SPO also set a minimum landing fuel weight and restricted airspeed, low-level operations, fuel management, aircraft maneuvering and turbulence avoidance guidance.

Aircraft affected by the groundings and restrictions are E- and H-model C-130s and HC-130 N/P models. (Courtesy of AMC News Service)

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