July 29, 2016 (by Jenny Gordon) - What started out as an aircraft used by the Coast Guard will soon end up in the hands of the U.S. Forest Service.
A C-130H (#83-0507
) that has been maintained by the 560th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron is in its final stages of programmed depot maintenance here, having just wrapped up functional test procedures. The aircraft’s final visit will be to corrosion control where it will receive a new paint job before it leaves.
Although the aircraft has remained at Robins longer than anticipated, due to the transfer to the Forest Service and unforeseen production issues while on station, it is scheduled to fly out in August when it will serve a different role – fighting fires as its new mission.
“The good news about this is we’ll be able to get this plane back to the Forest Service right in time for the fire season, and give them a key piece of firefighting equipment,” said Stephen Adcock, 560th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron Functional Test flight chief. “We’ve been regenerating this aircraft and getting ready to offer it up to a flight crew to fly it.”
During its time here, the aircraft received a new center wing box, replacement of its outer wings, as well as maintenance actions on the plane’s elevator, with parts manufactured with the assistance of the 402nd Commodities Maintenance Group.
To assist with its firefighting capabilities, the plane was installed with a Modular Airborne Fire Fighting Systems control panel, a process that took two days.
While the remaining part of that modification will take place at another facility, these portable fire retardant delivery systems, once installed on C-130 aircraft, can provide the Forest Service a unique means to suppress wildfires.
Air Force C-130s equipped with MAFFS provide a surge capability, boosting firefighting efforts when further assistance is needed. Once ready, this particular C-130H outfitted with MAFFS, will be able to discharge a load of up to 3,000 gallons of retardant in less than five seconds, and can be refilled and airborne in less than 20 minutes.
Wildfires typically occur during the summer months in the western U.S. states, and are suppressed by not only firefighters on the ground who help contain fires, but from aircraft in the air who either drop water or fire retardant to reduce the intensity and rate of spread of wildfires, according to the U.S. Forest Service.
In addition to C-130s, numerous other aircraft can assist, such as helicopters; single engine air tankers; amphibious aircraft known as water scoopers that can skim a body of water’s surface, scooping water into its onboard tank; and DC-10 air tankers that manage fires below.
What these C-130s do is assist when needed with the average 7,500 wildfires that burn each year, devastating about 1.5 million acres of national forests and grasslands.
Created by Congress in the 1970s, the ongoing collaboration between the Forest Service and Department of Defense continues to be a vital partnership, with several airlift wings throughout the U.S. that deploy throughout the year to assist with MAFFS missions.