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C-130 maintainers accomplish 'in-field' depot maintenance

by Tech. Sgt. Scott T. Sturkol
416th Air Expeditionary Group Public Affairs

5/9/2005 - KARSHI-KHANABAD AIR BASE, Uzbekistan (AFPN) -- It took about a month for C-130 Hercules maintainers here to repair significant structural damage normally requiring a stateside depot team with full access to back shop structural support.

A C-130 with the 774th Expeditionary Airlift Squadron received significant structural damage when its right rear main tire blew out while landing at Bagram Air Base, Afghanistan, recently.

The tire came apart and damaged the wheel well area behind it as the aircraft rolled down the runway, said Lt. Col. Mike Lynch, 416th Air Expeditionary Group deputy commander for maintenance.

“By the time the aircraft stopped, there was a 2-by-3-foot hole where there used to be fuel lines and wiring,” he said.

With the extensive damage, the C-130 was grounded at Bagram until officials planned a way to move it here. That called for creative measures.

“First thing we had to do was get the aircraft to a flyable condition where we could get it to a repair facility,” Colonel Lynch said. “This meant we had to literally hack off the damaged portions that could have possibly come off in flight.”

Structural engineers at Robins Air Force Base, Ga., approved a one-time flight with the gear down and also approved the temporary repair advanced by structural Airmen here, Colonel Lynch said.

Once they landed here, the structural repair Airmen went to work.

“My initial reaction to the work that had to be done on the aircraft was pretty overwhelming,” said Master Sgt. William Stuhr who is deployed from Elmendorf Air Force Base, Alaska. “There was a hole in the airplane big enough to throw a queen-size bed through and a pile of junked parts weighing (more than) 150 pounds.”

But within 30 days, the Airmen made more than two dozen damaged or missing brackets and fittings by hand, said Staff Sgt. Sean Burger who is deployed from Elmendorf. They also made two new metal skins and spliced into the existing structure of the C-130 that was not damaged.

“This was not an easy task considering the equipment we have (here) for this kind of work,” he said.

The Airmen worked between 350 and 400 hours to get the aircraft fixed, said Staff Sgt. Charlie Anderson who is deployed from Davis-Monthan AFB, Ariz.

Colonel Lynch said doing this work was a “very unusual repair.”

“The type of repair that was required would normally be done by a depot team with a full back shop structural repair facility to back them up,” he said. “Since we are a forward-operating location, we have only a minimal back shop. All components were fabricated by hand using hand tools and small portable shop equipment.

“We were fortunate to have some very skilled structural repair and metals technicians with us on this particular rotation who were capable of performing this extensive repair with the bare minimum back shop capability,” Colonel Lynch said.

“This repair reaffirmed my belief of ‘where there’s a will, there’s a way,’” Sergeant Stuhr said.

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