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Air Force, Boeing officials upgrade C-130 cockpits

by Senior Airman Stacy Sanchez
95th Air Base Wing Public Affairs

7/8/2008 - EDWARDS AIR FORCE BASE, Calif. (AFPN) -- Members of the 418th Flight Test Squadron here working with Boeing officials are currently conducting communication, navigation, radar and air data testing on two C-130 Hercules aircraft here as part of the Avionics Modernization Program.

The Avionics Modernization Program, or AMP, upgrade includes replacement of the aircraft's 1960s-era instruments and indicators with a modernized glass cockpit consisting of flat panel displays, heads-up displays and upgraded communication and navigation systems.

"As far as technology goes, the legacy aircraft's cockpit is lagging behind modern technology," said Capt. Grant Mizell, a 418th Flight Test Squadron C-130 pilot. "The AMP modification is the first comprehensive project that allows the C-130 to take all these modernization benefits."

Since the modification to the cockpits are significant to the aircraft, the radar and air data testing will test the basic fundamental skills of the gauges, such as checking for proper readings of altitudes and locations, said Kristen Pearson, a 412th Test Support Squadron AMP program manager.

"The C-130 is also testing the (heads-up display)," Ms. Pearson said. "The HUD has so many benefits like improving a pilot's situational awareness and improving information accuracy. All the things that were once mechanically driven are now running through a computer. When something goes out of limits, the computer can tell you all about it."

Edwards Air Force Base officials are currently transforming two C-130s -- a 1989 and a 1991 model. One of the primary reasons for the C-130 cockpit modernization is to cope with air traffic management standards set by Europe, as it will begin using Global Air Traffic Management in two years.

"As the sky gets more crowded, we find the need to fit more aircraft into smaller spaces," Captain Mizell said. "Old '70s era instruments like the ones in the legacy C-130 are not as accurate as the more modern equipment; therefore a larger safety bubble is required around the airplane. You might think that it's a big sky out there, but we are being challenged to fit more iron into crowded airspace."

The modification inside the aircraft will now allow more accurate readings of locations and enable the aircraft to navigate through tighter spaces. The final testing for the aircraft will be the integrated systems evaluations to see if the aircraft can complete any given mission when tasked.

"We are doing integrated testing evaluations to see if the aircraft is capable of accomplishing tasks required by combat crews," Captain Mizell said. "If we were told to go to Iraq or Afghanistan and asked to put 60 troops on target, could the C-130 AMP aircraft get the job done? This test will also show if all the right tools have been brought together in the best manner, for the ever expanding mission of the C-130."

Developmental testing of the C-130 AMP is scheduled to end in September 2009 and the first C-130 AMP aircraft is scheduled to be delivered to the Arkansas National Guard in 2010 to be used as the primary training site for pilots.

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