Six months and 11,000 man-hours after a battered cargo plane landed at Hill Air Force Base, the refurbished aircraft is ready to return to another five years of hard flying.
In a ceremony Wednesday, the first C-130 Hercules cargo plane to be refurbished at Hill since the repair program was transferred to the base in July, was rolled out, ready to return to service.Because the aircraft's repair was a learning experience for the mechanics that worked on it, the tearing down and rebuilding of the C-130 took 11,000 hours, repair foreman Don Robertson said.
That is expected to decrease as the repair program gears up from its current quota of 20 aircraft a year to 30 annually by 1990. The C-130 maintenance depot now has 35 employees, most former F-4 fighter mechanics, and will be at 100 employees by next year.
Foreman Roy Dow said the repair process starts with tearing the aircraft apart, including removing the tail and cargo area. A detailed inspection follows, looking for corrosion, cracks and other signs of wear or weakness.
Parts are repaired or replaced and the aircraft's electronics, flight control, navigation and radio equipment is modernized, Dow said.
At this point the only thing Hill's repair depot can't handle is repainting. Hill has traditionally been a fighter aircraft repair and support facility and the base's paint shops are too small to handle the giant cargo plane, Dow said.
Maj. Gen. James W. Hopp, commander of the Ogden Air Logistics Center at Hill, said the C-130 that flew into the base in July for refurbishing is 26 years old and, like many other Air Force planes, is older than the pilots that fly it and the mechanics that maintain it.
It's only the extensive and careful maintenance like that at Hill that allows the aircraft to keep flying, the general said, complimenting the Hill employees on their work and careful attention to quality control.
Hill's reputation for quality work was the crucial factor in transferring the C-130 maintenance program to the base, Hopp said. With the phasing of the F-4 Phantom fighter out of the Air Force's inventory, jobs that would have been lost at Hill are being saved by the arrival of the Hercules, the general said.
The first plane is finished and ready to go back to work at its base in Pennsylvania 30 days ahead of schedule, Hopp said, adding the goal of the maintenance program is to bring the refurbishing schedule down from 200 to 135 days per plane.
The first C-130s rolled off the assembly line 30 years ago and the aircraft are still being manufactured. The Air Force has more than 900 in its inventory, and Robertson said the versatile aircraft comes in 47 different models, from cargo carriers to gunships.
Each C-130 is scheduled for the extensive refurbishing program every five years.