by Senior Airman Michael Washburn
374th Airlift Wing Public Affairs
4/7/2015 - YOKOTA AIR BASE, Japan -- With
a calm, yet stern voice, Tech. Sgt. Joshua Lucero guides the four
Airmen located below the right wing of a C-130 Hercules who are giving a
piggy back ride to a leading edge -- the front part of the wing that
covers the internals components. They're trying to attach it back to the
"Guys, it needs to come out, over to the right, up and then back in,"
instructs Lucero, 374th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron electrical and
environmental systems technician.
The Airmen comply as they attempt to align the teeth on both the leading
edge and the aircraft, but the smallest of movements can throw it out
of alignment. It doesn't want to fit and it's becoming a trying task.
Lucero continues directing for the next 10 minutes or so as the group
moves. Up, down, left, right, forward, back; they follow every
instruction until they finally achieve victory. Albeit a small one.
But that's how the last two months have been. A series of victories
toward an inevitable goal: to get the aircraft back in the air where it
belongs and not on the ground like a bird with its wings clipped. The
aircraft suffered damage to its wings. Damage so severe that even Master
Sgt. Jonathan Dowell, a 21-year veteran maintainer, has never seen
anything like it.
"We checked the aircraft during a maintenance run and all the circuit
breakers started to pop in the flight deck," said Dowell, 374th AMXS
production superintendent. "Following this, a bleed air duct ruptured
between the number three and four engines."
As they took the wing panels off, shrapnel fell out. The team was taken
aback and shocked at the amount of damage 2067 had sustained. It was not
something that was seen in their day-to-day maintenance.
Adding to the shock of seeing the damage was the news that a team of
eight Airmen were tasked to rebuild the aircraft instead of a program
maintenance depot team. This was an unusual decision given the extent of
the repairs, but the team was up to the challenge.
"Everything between the number three and four engines was destroyed,"
Lucero said. "We replaced about 3,500 feet of wire along with a handful
of line-replaceable units, brackets and the boost pump for the fuel
From mid-January until late March, the eight-man maintenance team worked
on the time-consuming to-do list. Remove the leading edges: check.
Rewire the entire wing: check. Ensure the anti-ice system works
properly: check. It was all very Humpty Dumpty-esque, but they were
determined to put all the pieces back together until it was whole again.
"All the leading edges were removed, all the ducts inspected, damaged
parts fixed and then we needed to put it back together," said Tech. Sgt.
John Beltran, C-130 Hercules crew chief dedicated to this specific
After two months of work and an estimated 5,000 man-hours, the time came
to tow the C-130 from Hangar 15 to its rightful place on the flightline
and eventually in the air.
As Number 2067 lifted off from the flightline, it did so before a
gathered crowd of Airmen and higher leadership. They watched as the
wheels left the ground and it climbed into the sky. It was a moment of
pride and accomplishment for everyone, but none could be prouder than
the eight Airmen who worked for the last two months. Everyone applauded
and congratulated each other as the plane disappeared into the distance.
For Beltran, being able to work on the repairs for the C-130 has brought him closer to the aircraft.
"I've been working 12 hours a day for the last two months," Beltran
said. "Spending every minute of every day with the aircraft has allowed
me to really see all the pieces I didn't see before. It brings you
closer to the aircraft. You care about it more because you've invested
so much time in it and it becomes your baby."