ROBINS AIR FORCE BASE, Ga. — Returning air power as quickly as possible to the warfighter — that’s the goal of the C-130 Air Force Special Operations Command Acceleration Team.
Following the successful delivery of an AC-130U gunship in February, a dedicated team of 50 maintenance professionals in the C-130 AFSOC Acceleration Flight forged ahead with two additional aircraft currently on station.
A total of six AFSOC planes are scheduled for accelerated programmed depot maintenance at Robins in fiscal 2016. One has been delivered. The first of three MC-130H Combat Talons and a second gunship are currently on the base.
These high-demand aircraft are a direct result of a team effort that once again showcases that “Success Here = Success There!”
At Hurlburt Field, Fla., home to AFSOC and the 1st Special Operations Wing, since the first aircraft left Robins, it’s being further prepared prior to its departure for operational use.
Having the aircraft back at home station earlier than the original scheduled PDM release date has assisted with its flying schedule.
According to AFSOC, accelerated PDM puts the aircraft back into the fight sooner, and with the decrease in days that aircraft are in PDM, that means a flying unit’s aircraft availability increases.
“Additionally, because PDM is still performing all of the work that they normally would be on a non-accelerated aircraft, we’re still getting the same caliber product,” said Capt. Jessica Watts, 1st Special Operations Aircraft Maintenance Squadron maintenance operations officer at Hurlburt Field.
“Aircraft availability is the cornerstone maintenance metric,” she added. “An increase in our AA means we have more aircraft available to execute the flying program. It gives us increased flexibility for how we schedule our aircraft, and therefore allows us to better support our operators — both for home station training and downrange.”
The MC-130H aircraft on base received an outer wing replacement, with assistance from the 309th Aerospace Maintenance and Regeneration Group at Davis-Monthan Air Force Base in Arizona. The wings arrived at Robins in early December.
Among the Combat Talon’s additional updates and modifications, it was equipped with refueling pods which gives the aircraft in-flight refueling capabilities.
For example, additional plumbing was added inside its tanks.
Notably, this special acceleration line has evolved into a five-phase PDM monitoring system, as opposed to the seven-gate system in use throughout the 560th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron.
“We’ve taken a lot of things that were incorporated from the first aircraft and improving the process even more,” said Kevin Johnson, AFSOC Acceleration Flight PDM dock supervisor.
Tasks that were previously included in later stages of PDM, such as disassembly, inspection and repair, were combined earlier in what is now Phase 3 Conversion.
Aircraft are now being brought from depaint operations straight into a production dock.
“As we’re disassembling an aircraft now, we’re inspecting it as we’re taking it apart,” he said.
In this flight, there are five phases: induction, preparation, conversion, build-up and functional test.
“Instead of spreading it throughout a three-gate process, we pulled it all together and did everything in conjunction with other processes while we had the manpower already there,” added Johnson.
With stands made readily available, along with tooling and workers in place, this resulted in flow days continuing to decrease.
Process improvements are key, said Jake Dickson, C-130 AFSOC Acceleration Flight chief.
“In order to keep everyone active and keep the aircraft progressing, we do it more smartly,” said Dickson. “We keep dedicating people so the aircraft is steadily moving. While this has helped, process improvements have been the top driver.”
Realizing the importance of returning these aircraft back into the field, aircraft mechanics like Casey Battle understand that every day at Robins is a critical one.
“These are special aircraft, and getting them back to the warfighter faster is our priority,” he said. “We have very few of them and we can’t hold onto them for very long before they need them back. It motivates us to try and get them out more quickly.”