Maintainers aid C-130 units
By Senior Master Sgt. Eric Peterson, 120th Airlift Wing Public Affairs Office
/ Published October 04, 2015
GREAT FALLS, Mont. -- Members of the 120th Airlift Wing were called upon twice during the month of April to assist Air National Guard and Air Force Reserve units with maintenance help for their disabled aircraft.
In each case, members of the Maintenance Response Team moved quickly to put their experience and talent to work to fix the problems and return the two aircraft to service.
One important group within the MRT is the Crashed Damaged Disabled Aircraft Recovery Team. The CDDAR Team is made up of specialists from across the aircraft maintenance career field. Their combined wealth of experience provides the team the ability to tap into the needed expertise to successfully complete required tasks.
During the late afternoon of April 16, a call was received by CDDAR Team Chief Master Sgt. Luke Grigsby, that an Air Force Reserve C-130 Hercules aircraft had blown two tires upon landing at the Bert Mooney Airport in Butte, Montana. The aircraft sat motionless and unable to move off the runway with its right wing listing towards the pavement.
Grigsby immediately initiated a recall of the team and within a few hours was able to assemble a group of maintenance and logistics readiness personnel that was ready to respond to the request for assistance.
The team met at the base early the next morning to load specialized equipment into their crash-recovery trailer and a tractor-trailer truck and plan how they could fix the stranded C-130 in Butte and get it back on flying status.
The team left their base in Great Falls, Montana, at 9:30 a.m. and drove 155 miles to Butte. They arrived at the airport shortly after noon and immediately began to work on the aircraft.
They first offloaded fuel to lighten the aircraft and then prepared to raise the landing gear on the right side of the aircraft.
Grigsby said the team considered using lifting bags to inflate and raise the wings but decided to use axel jacks to lift the aircraft up in order to gain access to the landing gear that held the flattened tires.
"We had a soft runway," Grigsby said. "The airplane was already sinking into the runway so as soon as we started jacking the jack started sinking out of sight."
The soft runway caused the maintenance team to quickly improvise their aircraft-lifting method.
"We found a couple metal plates to distribute the weight a little better so it wasn't sinking out of sight," Grigsby said.
In less than five hours they removed the fuel from the aircraft, changed the tires, inspected the brakes and refueled the C-130.
The quick response from the team of maintenance professionals allowed the C-130 to return to service and the Butte airport could resume normal flying operations.
"They were very appreciative of us coming down and helping them," said team member Tech. Sgt. Keith Gottlob. "The aircrew was beyond grateful."
The response to the request for assistance by the Air Force Reserve aircraft in Butte provided the CDDAR Team their first real-world experience with an incident involving a C-130.
The team schedules exercises twice each year to give members a chance to train on realistic scenarios they might experience. Grigsby said the team is looking forward to gaining additional training during the Major Accident Response Exercise in June.
"We'll get some more training so if we have to do something like this again for real," Grigsby said. "We all work well together, we weren't surprised by anything and we just took care of business."
The MRT experienced their second response to an incident involving an aircraft assigned to a different unit April 29.
A C-130 assigned to the Texas Air National Guard had refueled at the 120th AW but needed to return to the base shortly after takeoff when it experienced an engine malfunction.
This time, two 120th AW engine mechanics dedicated extra hours to fix the disabled aircraft and return it to service to complete its mission. Propulsion and propeller technicians Tech. Sgt. Sean Murray and Staff Sgt. Tyler Weir volunteered to go the extra effort to get the C-130 back in the air.
"We went out and ran the engine for about four hours thinking we could do some minor adjustments," Murray said. "As the run progressed, the symptoms got worse so it ended up being a valve housing change-which is a maintenance intensive job."
Thanks to their specialized experience and hard work, the mechanics had the aircraft fully repaired and able to fly in less than a day and a half.
"We identified the problem and changed the valve housing in a day and we made sure it was operational the next morning," Weir said.
Once again, the crew of the Texas Air National Guard aircraft was grateful for the prompt attention the Montana aircraft maintenance professionals gave to the repair of their C-130.
"They were able to stay on schedule for their particular tasking they had," Weir said. "They were pretty darned appreciative."