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Meet in the Middle

U.S. Air Force Staff Sgt. Ryan Cherry, Non-Destructive Inspection Craftsman, 133rd Maintenance Group, use an Olympus Nortec 600 to detect cracks on a C-130 Hercules in St. Paul, Minnesota, Mar. 16, 2021.

U.S. Air Force Staff Sgt. Ryan Cherry, Non-Destructive Inspection Craftsman, 133rd Maintenance Group, use an Olympus Nortec 600 to detect cracks on a C-130 Hercules in St. Paul, Minnesota, Mar. 16, 2021. Cherry was part of a team which traveled to 128th Air Refueling Wing, Wisconsin Air National Guard, to help the 179th Airlift Wing, Ohio Air National Guard, inspect one of their C-130 Hercules due to COVID-19 restriction of movement for a deploying unit. (U.S. Air National Guard photo by Tech. Sgt. Amy M. Lovgren)

A U.S. Air Force C-130 Hercules from the 179th Airlift Wing, Ohio Air National Guard sits in a hangar at the 128th Air Refueling Wing, Wisconsin Air National Guard, in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, Feb. 18, 2021.

A U.S. Air Force C-130 Hercules from the 179th Airlift Wing, Ohio Air National Guard sits in a hangar at the 128th Air Refueling Wing, Wisconsin Air National Guard, in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, Feb. 18, 2021. Airmen from the 133rd Maintenance Group traveled to Wisconsin to help the 179th to complete safety time compliance technical order due to COVID-19 restriction of movement for a deploying unit. (U.S. Air National Guard photo by Staff Sgt. Marina Getchell)

SAINT PAUL, Minn. – U.S. Air Force Airmen from the 133rd Maintenance Group understand the importance of aviation safety. Each workday, the maintainers ensure that every component on the aircraft is able to perform at its highest level. When a safety time compliance technical order (STCTO) is delivered, the maintainers go to work, even if it’s not the 133rd Airlift Wing’s plane.

Earlier this year, maintainers received a STCTO assignment and were asked to assist the 179th Airlift Wing, Ohio Air National Guard. The job was to help inspect one of their C-130 Hercules fleet wing boxes for cracks, a problem that was originally discovered by the Air Force in a C-130J Super Hercules. Due to COVID-19 restriction of movement, Ohio needed a helping hand.

"We were called to help the 179th Airlift Wing because of their upcoming deployment," said U.S. Air Force Staff Sgt. Marina Getchell, Aerospace Maintenance Craftsman. "Most of their Crew Chiefs, Sheet Metal, and Non-Destructive Inspection Airmen were within their restriction of movement. We went to Milwaukee [128th Air Refueling Wing, Wisconsin Air National Guard] due hangar space unavailability in Ohio, and we were the closet C-130 unit."

Getchell, along with Tech. Sgt. Daniel Grieger, Aircraft Structural Maintenance Craftsman, and Staff Sgt. Ryan Cherry, Non-Destructive Inspection Craftsman, traveled nearly 343 miles to the 128th Air Refueling Wing to inspect the C-130 Hercules from the 179th.  

"We had a few hang-ups," recalls Getchell. "The biggest challenge we faced was working at a different base that has a fall protection system set up for a KC-135 Stratotanker. We worked with quality assurance and safety personnel from the 128th, and we figured the best set up for a C-130 Hercules."

The team from Minnesota, along with a crew chief from the 179th, worked together on the inspection of the wing box. The wing box is an integral part to the aircraft as it fastens the wings to the fuselage. Failure of the wing box could result in a catastrophic incident.

Despite a few setbacks, the team completed the crucial inspection in 15 hours, under the 18.5 hours recommended by the STCTO. The efforts of the team of maintainers allowed the 179th to arrive at their deployed location on time.

"We work hard in maintenance because military personnel fly on these aircraft," said Getchell. "Some of whom we know and don’t know, it is people’s lives at stake."