August 25, 2016 (by A1C Daniel Snider) - Like cars, aircraft have inspections and tune-ups that are done periodically, but unlike cars, aircraft can’t push the limits and skip maintenance because if an aircraft breaks it can’t simply pull to the side of the road.
A dismantled HC-130J Combat King II (#11-5765) from 71 RQS undergoes a B-check isochronal inspection, August 16, 2016, at Moody AFB. B-check ISO inspections are performed after an HC-130J has been active for roughly 270 days. (USAF photo by A1C Daniel Snider]
Responsible for performing these inspections and tune-ups on all of Moody's HC-130J Combat King II fleet is the 23d Equipment Maintenance Squadron isochronal inspection team.
"[These] inspections are more in-depth than pre-flight or basic post-flight operations," said U.S. Air Force Tech Sgt. Benjamin Huddleston, 23d EMS HC-130J isochronal inspection dock chief. "We tear the aircraft apart top-to-bottom and look at every inch of this aircraft to find any and all discrepancies that exist."
"That's really what [it's] all about, the structural integrity of the aircraft," said Huddleston. "[We're] taking a deeper look and seeing what the stress time on the airframe has really done to the aircraft."
These detailed maintenance periods help ensure the aircraft can withstand and support Moody's high-operations tempo.
"It gives me a sense of confidence that everybody here at Moody is trying to get us the best possible product,” said Capt. Christy Wise, 71st Rescue Squadron HC-130J pilot. "With any plane that flies as much as we fly them out here you have things break. It's good knowing that whether it's the two-year or the six-year inspection, they're looking at every single switch on the aircraft.”
While there are a variety of isochronal inspections performed periodically, each is given an alphabetical title corresponding with level of detail and how often they're performed.
"One aircraft we pushed out of here deployed almost immediately after the aircraft maintenance unit got it back,” said Huddleston. "That's really a testament to what these guys do in here during these inspections, how far we breakdown the aircraft and within a couple days of giving it back they can deploy the aircraft.”
For example, A-checks are performed after 270 days, B-checks after 540, C1-checks after 1080 and C2-checks are after roughly 2160 days, according to Huddleston. Shorter grounding times are directly correlated with the age of the aircraft because less flight hours means less major issues found during the inspections.
"It's awesome that we can schedule an aircraft for a B-check and it's down for 10 days as opposed to 30,” said Huddleston. "The A-checks last something between three and five days and we have a C1-check scheduled for 19 days.
The longer it takes to perform, the more in-depth the inspection is. However, J-model inspections still take less time than the month-long standard for the P-models that previously called Moody home.
"This [HC-130J] has 530 airframe hours, as opposed to [some HC-130Ps], which had around 20,000 and had been flying for 50 to 55 years,” said Huddleston. "These aircraft just aren't old enough yet, so our [common repairs] are pretty small in comparison.”
Along with newer aircraft came new isochronal equipment and methods, to include new, online paperless documenting processes allowing Airmen to update maintenance progress instantaneously.
"Everything runs more smoothly doing it on the computers instead of having 10 people in line for forms,” said Senior Airman Colten Miller, 23d EMS isochronal inspection crew chief.
Even with the improved effectiveness, there are still inch-by-inch inspections and tests required before the aircraft is cleared to fly.
"In the long run, knowing you did everything you could and [the aircraft] got up there because of you, that's rewarding,” said Miller.