Military News

Tuesday, June 09, 2015

Unique C-5M repairs showcase collective Team Robins efforts

by Jenny Gordon
78th Air Base Wing Public Affairs

6/5/2015 - ROBINS AIR FORCE BASE, Georgia -- A substantial series of repairs have been completed on a high-demand C-5M Super Galaxy that will soon go down in the history books.

For the first time, 559th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron maintainers here installed a prototype of a new lavatory system that will soon be outfitted on the entire C-5 fleet.

At the same time, a second major job occurred to replace a primary structural component, known as a Batman fitting, on the same aircraft. This was the second C-5M to receive the replacement fitting.  

Both repairs are significant because the lavatory modification system -- designed by the C-5 System Program Office here -- and the Batman fitting replacement project are part of an Air Force effort to improve the C-5 fleet's reliability and safety.

The aircraft, based at Dover Air Force Base, Delaware, arrived for unscheduled depot level maintenance in mid-February for an unexpected failure of a structural component on the aft door.

The component experienced fatigue cracking typical for aging aircraft. Once the aircraft was here for that repair, it was ideal to have the other work done at the same time.

Interestingly, while looking at the schedule of C-5s, one was already set to arrive for the new lavatory system installation. However, since the unforeseen failure of the C-5M occurred, the timing couldn't have been more perfect to make all the repairs needed at one time, with just one aircraft out of operation, as opposed to two.

The concurrent work packages resulted in minimum unscheduled maintenance time for the aircraft, resulting in a positive effect on fleet availability.

The repairs demonstrate Team Robins' capabilities, according to Dave Nakayama, 559 AMXS director.

"By repairing the structural damage to this aircraft, while at the same time replacing the Batman fitting and also doing a prototype installation of the new latrine, we were able to maximize aircraft availability for the warfighter and still accomplish work that needed to be done for the entire fleet," he said. "The successful outcome of this initiative was the result of a total team effort by many mission partners, and the C-5 enterprise benefitted."

The C-5M is scheduled to depart this week; its temporary visit to Robins will have lasted about 112 days. A total of 8,250 hours was spent on the total work package to include all three projects.

"There was a lot of work involved in a short amount of time," said Col. Raegan Echols, Air Force Life Cycle Management Center's C-5 Division chief at Robins. "It's been a huge effort and great accomplishment for the Air Force."

About the Work
The new bathrooms on the C-5s are expected to be a welcome relief for crew members and passengers alike. They're located on the crew deck; one is up front for the crew, the other in the rear troop compartment.

The system's original 1960s design, which is now in line with the commercial airline industry, consisted of a large waste tank filled with chemical blue water, using a pump to recirculate waste tank water to the bowl for flushing, according to Amy Eddy, 402nd Aircraft Maintenance Support Squadron's C-5/F-15 PDM Engineering Element chief.

Water leaks originating from the old system had resulted in corrosion issues on the aircraft's floorboards. That alone resulted in extensive, labor-intensive repairs each time. In addition, leaks onto electrical panels have resulted in aircraft fires.

The new system is a vacuum-flush system just like those found on commercial aircraft, and uses a vacuum generator to remove waste from the bowl to a sealed tank, later drained for servicing. It's basically the difference between having a portable toilet in your midst or a flushable toilet.

It's expected the new system will generate an estimated savings of $1 million in man hours, and $23 million in parts costs over the life of the C-5 fleet.

With unique challenges experienced aligning the different work packages -- while on schedule -- there were lessons learned in integrating military maintenance practices with commercial equipment.

"The process of how we install items and the sequencing certainly resulted in lessons learned," said Eddy.

While that process was happening, workers installed a Batman fitting, named for its resemblance to the costume headpiece worn by the comic book character. It is the primary structural component that holds the front part of the tail structure, the vertical stabilizer, to an aircraft's fuselage. It weighs about 80 pounds and was redesigned following inspections in 2009 that identified recurring cracks, indicative of a fatigue problem.

That repair took place on a C-5M, which was also returned to Dover.

There were definitely challenges at the time since everything was new; constraints were identified, blueprints had to be created, and procedures had to be tested.

Michael McUmber, 559 AMXS sheet metal mechanic, worked on the first C-5M that received the prototype last fall.

"From doing the prototype, since it was the first, we had to learn basically everything," he said. "The process this time went much smoother."

This particular fleet-wide change will help keep C-5s flying for the next 40 years and more.

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