Ending of an era: 23d EMS performs last HC-130P ISO inspection

  • Published
  • By Airman 1st Class Ceaira Tinsley
  • 23d Wing Public Affairs
It's a chilling 36 degrees in the isochronal (ISO) hangar, but as drills turn and everyone works diligently, no one seems to notice.

They're all focused on the final ISO inspection of aircraft 65-0986, the last HC-130P Combat King II that will undergo an ISO inspection at Moody Air Force Base, Ga.

"It's kind of the end of an era because this is a 50-year-old aircraft seeing its last major inspection before retirement," said U.S. Air Force Tech. Sgt. Daniel Abney, 23rd Equipment Maintenance Squadron ISO assistant section chief. "This being our final [ISO] inspection we're hoping to push out our last quality P model product back to the AMU [Aircraft Maintenance Unit].

ISO inspections are timed inspections where 23d EMS Airmen peel back all of the different layers to inspect, fix and reassemble the aircraft.

"An aircraft flies a bunch of hours and there are certain things that you can't see on an aircraft until you start depaneling it and doing thorough inspections," said Maj. Robert Custer, 23d EMS commander. "Every 18 months you have to perform an [ISO] inspection or every 1,200 flight hours, whichever comes first."

Moody's HC-130Ps are approximately 50 years old and are being phased out to make room for the newer more capable, cost efficient HC-130J Combat King II.

"At some point the cost and the amount of maintenance that you have to put on an aircraft in order to maintain it outweighs the cost of a new aircraft," said Custer. "We're going to start retiring this aircraft because we're going to be putting so much work into them that we'd have to hire 100 people to maintain it. The J model is a newer aircraft and won't require ... the number of people and amount of time in maintenance."

More than 30 Airmen alternated to work the two-shift operation, investing about 20 hours a day into the aircraft.

"We take the aircraft apart and put it up on jacks to inspect all of the smaller pieces that don't get inspected on the flight line to extend its service life," said Abney. "We look at the engines, tires, gears and a lot of the other stuff that doesn't get hit as deeply by the inspectors on the flightline as it does by us."

Airmen from the 23d EMS said the 22 days allotted for this inspection were stressful as they dedicated themselves to completing the four phases of the inspection.

"We start with an aircraft wash and then we pull it into our ISO hangar and start depaneling the aircraft," said Abney. "[Next] then we roll into the 'look' phase and that's where our inspectors go and look in their particular areas. We begin the 'fix' phase where we start fixing all of the discrepancies. When fix phase is complete, we repanel the aircraft and perform rechecks on all of the system's components that we've serviced or changed. Then we transcribe the forms and [distribute] the aircraft back to the flying unit."

Although the 23d EMS has the aircraft in their possession, completing the ISO inspection required a team effort from various maintenance specialties.

"We work with pretty much every maintenance organization that's out there on the C-130 side," said Capt. Chris Horsfall, 23d EMS maintenance operations officer. "This includes inspections, sheet metal, metal technology, fabrication, avionics, fuel shop, electrical environmental and hydraulics. Basically every shop that we own has some part to play in working on the aircraft."

Airmen from the 23d EMS pushed to complete the task of inspecting this aircraft thoroughly and accurately before it flies it's next mission.

"When it goes back out there it's not a brand new aircraft but we've had a look at almost 75 to 85 percent of the hidden parts of that aircraft," said Custer. "Now we can honestly say you've got a good and solid aircraft to fly."

Despite delivering back a solid product, this HC-130P will be headed to the boneyard in June 2015 to accommodate the newer J model aircraft at Moody.