October 27, 2022 (by MSgt. Jessica Roles) - With the recent legacy C-130 fleet grounding due to cracks in affected propeller blades, units flying the aircraft across the Department of Defense were working around the clock to find alternative solutions to mission support. As the C-130H schoolhouse which trains all legacy C-130 aircrew stateside and overseas, the 189th Airlift Wing at Little Rock Air Force Base felt the pressure and worked diligently to find a solution.
SMSgt. Joshua Jay, a 154th Training Squadron flight engineer instructor, inspects the top of the new C-130H #92-0548 NP 2000 on loan to the squadron from the 192nd AS on October 21, 2022, at Little Rock AFB. The NP 2000 is similar to the C-130H model flown at the 189th AIrlift Wing, with a few differences such as the eight-bladed props on the NP 2000 compared to the four-bladed props on the legacy C-130. [ANG photo by MSgt. Jessica Roles]
Last week, two C-130H NP 2000 aircraft with the 3.5 engine modification and eight-bladed propellers, arrived from the 152nd Airlift Wing to assist the 154th Training Squadron with student training and production. With slight differences between the legacy C-130 and the NP 2000, instructors from the TRS and Guardsmen from the 192nd Airlift Squadron spent the last week studying the changes and putting their practice into action.
"The beauty of the Air National Guard is that when other units are affected by groundings such as this, the enterprise rallies together rather than splintering apart," said Col. Jay Geaney, the 189th Operations Group commander.
According to Geaney, multiple Guardsmen at the 154 TRS had experience operating the NP 2000 before transitioning to the schoolhouse legacy C-130. Due to the plethora of experience between the flight engineers and pilots, the transition could take less time than initially accounted for. With an easier learning curve and an additional three aircraft arriving from the Georgia Air National Guard, the mission is expected to resume full operations by the beginning of November.
Every legacy C-130H aircraft in the DOD was grounded due to the affected barrel-housing unit and its four-bladed props. As props from the wing's fleet were inspected by the 189th Maintenance Group's aerospace propulsion craftsmen, all props that received a "green" rating were shipped and sent to different locations throughout the area of responsibility to resume deployment operations. Maintainers shared the difference between the four and eight-bladed props noting that the new aircraft did not fall under the guidelines of the fleet grounding.
"We are working diligently to bring our instructor cadre up to speed," Geaney said. "Many of our aircrews have prior experience flying these aircraft, but it's been a while since they've flown them. Aircrew instructors from Reno are here on temporary duty to ensure our Guardsmen are confident to fly and instruct students to keep the C-130H pipeline open."
Senior Master Sgt. Josh Jay, a 154th TRS flight engineer instructor, was part of the initial crew to fly the NP 2000 model last week. After a refresher with an aircrew member from 152nd, Jay successfully completed the flight. He flew the aircraft at a prior duty station and picked up quickly on the differences and adjusted accordingly.
"The 189th is a formal training unit and highly motivated and proud of the wing," said Jay. "Coming from the flying side, let's just say we don't make great penguins. We love our jobs, mission, and people, so we all feel the fallout when our fleet and focus are down. The good news is that we collectively have more experience in one place than any other C-130 unit in the world. If anyone is going to find the right way to do something new with a high degree of accuracy, it's going to be us. This isn't the best way to transition, but sometimes "ripping the bandaid off" is the best or only approach."
The wing continues to work on corrective actions regarding the fleet and looks to future solutions as the legacy C-130 becomes another chapter in our wing's history. Aircrews are currently in the process of transitioning to newer models of the C-130 and will continue to work diligently to support all units by training the best C-130 aircrew in the world.