January 18, 2019 (by SrA Rebecca Van Syoc) - A car requires regular tune-ups and inspections to ensure that the vehicle is running correctly. The C-130J Super Hercules follow a similar cycle, requiring regular inspection and maintenance so that they don't have issues during a mission.
USAF C-130J-30 #08-3179 is seen undergoing inspections by the 317th Maintenance Squadron isochronal inspection team after certain number of flying hours or calendar days. [USAF photo by A1C Rebecca Van Syoc]
In a worst-case scenario a car can simply pull to the side of a road, but an aircraft does not have the same capability if something breaks or stops working.
In order to keep these aircraft in good working condition, there are the members of the 317th Maintenance Squadron isochronal inspection team.
"Essentially after a certain number of days or flying hours, we have to inspect the aircraft," said Tech. Sgt. Jakob Howell, 317th MXS dock chief. "That means we are responsible for catching both short-term and long-term issues."
There are many types of inspections that aircraft, such as the C-130, need to have on a regular basis and they all have similarities to inspections for outside of the U.S. Air Force.
"Inspections done on the flightline, like pre and post-flight inspections, are like the pit stops during a NASCAR race," said Senior Airman Nicholas Hooker, 317th MXS isochronal inspection journeyman. "When the ISO shop gets an aircraft, it's like taking your car to a mechanic and letting them look over it. We might be notified of some issues the aircraft already has, but we might also find more from that in-depth inspection and make sure those are fixed."
According to Howell, over 360 man hours can be put into the inspection of a single C-130. This includes checking every system, panel and cord across the aircraft. Not a single inch should be overlooked, as even the smallest detail could turn into a big problem if it's not properly noted or taken care of.
"It's our responsibility to almost have a healthy amount of paranoia," Hooker said. "Complacency is the enemy of anyone who works in maintenance; any dent, crack, wear or tear has to be looked at not just as a current issue for the aircraft, but how it will affect it down the line. You might look at something and say to yourself ‘that doesn't look too bad', but those are the moments you have to remember that while in the air, our aircrew can't just pull over if that little issue you brushed off winds up becoming something bigger."
Members of the 317th MXS ISO shop work according to the needs of the aircraft on Dyess Air Force Base, meeting scheduling challenges to ensure that every C-130 is safe and ready to fly any mission required of it. For the year of 2019 for example, they are 30 aircraft slated to be inspected, which each can take a minimum of seven and up to 15 or more days, depending on what issues are present at the time of scheduling.
According to Howell, there are more than 35 Airmen in the ISO shop, and they have the capability to work up to 24/7 to ensure that an aircraft is inspected in the timeframe it needs to be.
"We're a team here no matter what," Hooker said. "Either the shift stays together or leaves together, we don't leave anyone behind or overwhelmed."