SHEPPARD AIR FORCE BASE, Texas --
From special operations to firefighting, the C-130J Super Hercules has been in service by the U.S. Air Force for the last 19 years, accumulating more than 1.2 million flying hours around the world.
Sheppard Air Force Base is home to the 361st Training Squadron’s aerospace propulsion turboprop/turboshaft training for the C-130. Until recently, the only hands-on training available for students was for the older E-model, which only 25 percent of students would end up working on.
The other 75 percent of C-130 turboprop/turboshaft students are assigned to the newer, upgraded J-model engine and airframe, designated as AE 2100D3, would have to wait until they got to their first assignment before any hands-on training for their specific airframe could begin.
“On arrival to their first duty station, the Air Force is expecting these new Airmen to perform with having only seen the system they will be working on in visual aids,” said Master Sgt. Daniel Hobson, 361st TRS instructor supervisor. “The flight has been diligently working for approximately eight years to get hands-on AE 2100D3 training integrated into the course.”
An opportunity presented itself when a mishap at Hurlburt Field, Florida, allowed the 361st TRS to inherit two engines and two propellers from a J-model in nearly new condition.
“Having the actual engine allows students to gain a better understanding of the systems and how it works,” Hobson said. “It took many people at AFSOC and AETC, working with Rolls Royce to get the engines released, ensuring we would be able to gain these valuable assets.”
With the engines and propellers in possession, the 361st TRS needed somewhere to mount them.
The engine and propeller stands they were using for the four-bladed E-model propeller wouldn’t allow clearance for the larger six-bladed J-model propeller. They had to take a different route.
Noticing that both models of the engines were stored in the same containers, they realized that the newer engine would fit on the wing of an older model. The 361st TRS has a C-130E in their hangar and started planning for a new engine to be mounted.
“We knew it would fit,” Hobson said. “All the mounting bolts were the same part number so we knew it wasn’t unsafe. Beyond that it was just trial an error.”
Having the engine and the wing to mount it on weren’t the only things required for this task.
“Locating viable engines for training has not been the only roadblock we have had throughout this endeavor. During our development phase, we discovered that task-critical equipment was never purchased from the manufacturer by the Air Force for training use.” Hobson said. “Due to significant delays, we requested equipment support from Dyess AFB, Texas. Without the use of their personnel and equipment, we would have been unable to complete our task analysis.”
On Nov. 20-21, a class successfully installed and uninstalled a J-model propeller at Sheppard, twice.
“The task analysis identifies how much time, money and resources are needed to teach the course,” Hobson said. “We had to make sure we had everything prior to the start of teaching the new course.”
The innovative thinking of the instructor corps has also driven the development of trainers that give the ability to accomplish specific tasks in a training environment.
“Currently the plan is to train 200-plus Airmen a year with the new model engines and propellers.” Hobson said. “We have requested an additional nine engines from the MAJCOMs to support the number of students trained here annually.”