Leader Blues

Monday, March 16, 2009

TOP STORY >> Base needs parts to fix faulty nuts on C-130s

By JOHN HOFHEIMER
Leader senior staff writer

Little Rock Air Force Base lacks the parts to fix about one-third of its C-130 fleet that have questionable upper-wing, joint-barrel nuts.

New barrel nuts have been ordered, but planes in use by the war fighters in Iraq and Afghanistan will be serviced first. The next priority is for the combat commanders and Little Rock is “right up there,” Col. Greg Otey, commander of the 19th Airlift Wing, said Friday.

It could be days or mid-April before Little Rock gets all the parts it needs.

The base has about 96 C-130s, and those with the worn parts were out of service last week, according to Otey.

A routine inspection at Robbins Air Force Base in Georgia recently determined that there were two slightly different upper-wing joint-barrel nuts, one considered safe, the other not. Otey said maintainers could tell the difference by looking.

Each plane has 13 barrel nuts on the wings, he said. The barrel nuts secure the outer wings to the center wing box, Otey said.

Some training flights have been cancelled, but all “real world missions” have been flown, said Otey.

“Operational readiness was not affected and air crews were never in danger,” he said.
Base air maintenance crews worked long hours, including on weekends, to complete the inspections, the commander said.

Two planes have been brought up to standard and placed back in service so far, he said.

All but one of the base’s C-130J models passed the inspection.

Maintainance crews began inspecting the 80-plus C-130s here March 5.

Deployed aircraft are allowed to fly for a certain period of time during a war before inspections are performed, according to Otey.

The immediate inspection action order also includes C-130s operated by the National Guard, the Coast Guard and other forces.

Lockheed Martin, the manufacturer, is charged with notifying allies and owners of C-130s throughout the world.

The C-130Js, which are doing the work of thousands of truck convoys in Iraq and Afghanistan, also were being inspected.

Otey said the C-130s undergo home-station checks about every 225 days, other checks every 450 days and programmed-depot maintenance every 900 days.