Departing Air Force Wing Commander’s Super Hercules Gets a Check-up in Tokyo

June 24, 2024
A U.S. Air Force C-130J Super Hercules looked like a massive mechanical patient on an operating table during an inspection Friday at this airlift hub in western Tokyo.

Jun. 21—YOKOTA AIR BASE, Japan — A U.S. Air Force C-130J Super Hercules looked like a massive mechanical patient on an operating table during an inspection Friday at this airlift hub in western Tokyo.

A metal platform surrounded the plane that's typically flown by 374th Airlift Wing commander Col. Andrew Roddan, who is due to hand over command next month after a two-year stint at Yokota.

Roddan commands the only U.S. tactical airlift wing in the Pacific. He has more than 4,100 hours flying C-130E and J models, from Iraq and Afghanistan to the Philippines and Central and South America, according to his Air Force biography.

Roddan's Super Hercules was coincidentally in the hangar for a routine two-week inspection required of each aircraft every 540 days, Tech. Sgt. Neil Ortiz said during a tour of the plane. The platform allows maintainers to access the four turboprop engines and other parts of the plane with relative ease.

The platform is optional, but "it creates a really good flow for maintenance," the dock chief with the 374th Maintenance Squadron said. "You lose a lot of man hours by pushing stands around."

During the inspection, maintainers opened engine cowlings, landing gear doors and the plane's nose to inspect all manner of mechanical parts. They even pulled the seats out of the cockpit to give them a once-over.

The 14 planes at Yokota arrived there to replace older C-130H models in March 2017, but most were built in 2008. Roddan's plane was built in 2014, Ortiz said.

Common issues that airmen find during inspections include propellors out of balance or incorrect gaps when landing gear doors close, he said.

"It is like a wheel alignment for your car," he said of the process of correcting the issues.

A group of maintainers, including Staff Sgt. Samuel Gonzalez-Nunez, were checking out the aircraft's front landing gear door on Friday.

The landing gear and the flight controls, including the wing flaps, are the most interesting parts of the plane, according to Gonzalez-Nunez, who arrived at Yokota four months ago after serving as a crew chief at Ramstein Air Base, Germany.

The C-130s, which first took flight in the 1950s, have long proven their safety, Ortiz said.

"We flew them all over Africa, Europe and the Middle East," Ortiz said of his previous assignment as a C-130J crew chief at Ramstein.

The maintainers put a camera inside the plane's Rolls Royce engines every 3,000 hours of flight time to check for defects, he said.

"If we find a defect, we have to replace the engine," Ortiz said.

When the planes are 12 years old, they return to manufacturer Lockheed Martin in Warner Robbins, Ga., for a deeper inspection that involves removing the wings and tail. After the 12-year look inside, the planes return every six years for the same inspection, he said.


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