RAMSTEIN AIR BASE, Germany --
When it comes to aircraft like the C-130J Super Hercules, the crew chiefs who maintain the aircraft are organized similarly to professional racecar teams. The C-130J crew chiefs with 86th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron, perform the duties much like a racecar’s pit crew performs in a race. They do the overview inspections before and after flight, and fuel the aircraft inbetween missions. But after hundreds of hours of flight, the aircraft needs to be inspected to ensure nothing is damaged or will cause catastrophic failure.
This is where the 86th Maintenance Squadron makes their appearance much like the garage that rebuilds racecars. The Isochronal Maintenance Dockpulls the aircraft from the flightline, and performs full in-depth inspections on the C-130Js to verify the aircraft is performing in tip-top shape.
The aircraft is taken out of operational status for anywhere between three to 12 days, depending on the inspection being done. The three day checks are called A-checks and are the least rigorous of inspections, whereas C-checks require the aircraft to be cleaned and can require removal and repair of engines.
“We perform these checks, because the aircraft goes under heavy stress, with how often they are flown,” said Tech. Sgt. Robert Paradis, 86th MXS ISO dock chief.
The process begins with the 86th MXS, signing a contract with the 86th AMXS to “purchase” the C-130J to perform the inspection and repair the aircraft as needed. The contract states exactly what will be done, and the amount of time given to perform the required actions.
During the first day of 12 of the C1-check, the C-130J is scrubbed and cleaned with hot water and soap, to ensure the aircraft is free of all foreign contaminates. After being cleaned, the aircraft is taxied to another hangar, where a full set of personnel stands are laid out around the aircraft, and the majority of the external body panels are opened or removed.
The following five days are labelled as,” look phase,” where the crew chiefs will inspect specific items required by their technical orders, and report all findings to the ISO Dock chief.
“Depending on the issues that are reported, we often have to order the parts,” said Paradis. “The best way to describe my job is controlled chaos, as we pull from several different maintenance career fields to complete the checks.”
From day seven to 11, the crew chiefs are then tasked to complete “fix phase,” where all the issues found in “look phase,” are to be repaired and resolved.
“This portion often requires the most manpower,” said Paradis. “We have every maintenance career field come in and do their part to get the aircraft repaired in a timely manner.”
Once Airmen repair the aircraft, and resolve all discrepancies, the aircraft regains its body panels and is tested for operational issues for the 12th and final day in the 86th MXS’s possession.
Once all the paperwork is accomplished, and the aircraft is in its optimal condition, the 86th MXS will “sell back” the aircraft to the 86th AMXS, for aircrew to use and complete the Air Force mission.