LITTLE ROCK AIR FORCE BASE, Ark. --
With only two engines running, the final C-130H designed for the avionics modernization program left the 189th Airlift Wing Jan. 3, 2018, from Little Rock Air Force Base, Ark. to arrive at its final destination at the 309th Aerospace Maintenance and Regeneration Group’s “Boneyard." The aircraft will be reused as parts for other C-130H aircraft within the C-130 military fleet.
Taking the final AMP C-130H to the boneyard was the final motion to close more than a decade of uncertainty about the direction of the avionics modernization program. The program, which started in the mid 2000’s, was designed to create a more accurate flight assessment. The upgraded aircraft used sensors to issue messages or warnings to air crew with the use of special screens located in the flight deck.
“I was working on a completely different aircraft when I started on this project,” said Tech. Sgt. David Rogers, a 189th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron crew chief. “We decided to tackle the AMP departures when we found out we couldn’t take them apart. We had a lot of help on the first one before it dwindled down to only a handful of us who knew how to take care of them.”
Only a handful of 189th AW personnel were certified to maintain and fly on the aircraft. Throughout the process of preparing for their final flight to Davis-Monthan Air Force Base, the same air crew and maintenance personnel were dedicated to the task of making the five planes, which were not flown in years, airworthy, even successfully executing a local confidence flight before each trip.
“It was very important that our maintainers did everything they could to ensure our air crew were flying safely to their destination,” said Col. Brian McHenry, the 189th Maintenance Group commander. “It takes a lot of courage and bravery for our pilots and flight engineers to get on those planes. I had no doubt, however, that maintenance and ops were always talking and working together to make the trips successful.”
During the time the AMP aircraft were assigned to the wing, 14 maintenance personnel were assigned specifically to the project by Air Mobility Command to help maintain the planes. The total included several full-time Arkansas Air National Guard service members as well as traditional guardsmen who were familiar with the aircraft’s unique capabilities. More than 5,000 accounted hours were spent on the special aircraft to maintain them until their departure. The number of hours does not include regular maintenance hours.
The 189th Operations Group also played a role in the development and maintenance of the AMP program itself. The initial cadre of air crew were selected and sent to the Lockheed schoolhouse and trained to transition into the AMP program.
“The air crew went through the course to validate it and to get a head start on being able to teach it if it came into implementation,” said Chief Master Sgt. Brian Rohauer, the 189th Operations Group superintendent. “It was a big change from flying the legacy model and what it provided us, to using a flat screen, glass flight deck. There was a lot more communication and split roles between being a flight engineer and helping navigate.”
The five C-130 AMP aircraft had the fewest flying hours of the wing’s C-130 fleet. Although the program was not a success, there were many takeaways and lessons learned throughout more than a decade of AMP participation. The new AMP Increment 1 and 2 are the first steps in turning the legacy C-130 into the newest up-to-date aircraft within the C-130 community.