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Mobility Airmen provide structure to C-130 fleet

Staff Sgt. Christopher Lahey, 19th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron Aircraft Structural Maintenance craftsman, and his team repaired a leading edge for a C-130J back wing May 9, 2017, at Little Rock Air Force Base, Ark. The structural Airmen performed a high-level repair which made an aircraft serviceable 270 days ahead of schedule. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Kevin Sommer Giron)

Staff Sgt. Christopher Lahey, 19th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron Aircraft Structural Maintenance craftsman, and his team repaired a leading edge for a C-130J back wing May 9, 2017, at Little Rock Air Force Base, Ark. The structural Airmen performed a high-level repair which made an aircraft serviceable 270 days ahead of schedule. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Kevin Sommer Giron)

LITTLE ROCK AIR FORCE BASE, Ark. --

As the workhorse of the U.S. Air Force, the C-130 dominates the open skies of Little Rock Air Force Base, Arkansas. However, the fleet shares airspace with old feathery allies.

As spring begins, birds begin to migrate across the country. During the season, the airways are bustling with activity, and the reality of collisions between birds and aircraft are more prevalent.

Although there are programs, like the Bird/wildlife Aircraft Strike Hazard program, which help reduce the number of bird strikes, accidents still occur.

When they do, the 19th Maintenance Squadron Aircraft Structural Maintenance Airmen are tasked with repairing the C-130 airframe.

“We repair the physical damage to the aircraft’s infrastructure,” said Tech. Sgt. Anthony Duffin, 19th AMXS Aircraft Structural Maintenance Shop day shift lead. “From cracks to tears, we fix it all and repaint it.”

A recent collision challenged the structural Airmen to perform a higher-level repair that would make an aircraft serviceable 270 days ahead of schedule.

Their task was to create a leading edge for a horizontal stabilizer from scratch, using Little Rock AFB resources and saving the base thousands of dollars in repairs.

The leading edge is the front section of the C-130J back wing. It’s a vital piece that allows aircraft to keep its lift during flight.

“This one was challenging because the horizontal stabilizer doesn’t usually get hit,” Duffin said. “It’s harder to fix because it’s more compressed then the wing.”

Due to the uncommon damage, ordering a replacement part would’ve taken more than 250 days and cost over $150,000.

Despite the obstacle, the Airmen used their ingenuity and initiative to build the essential piece and saved Little Rock AFB $127,000.

“We patched the outer layer of the structure and completely remade the inner-skin of the part that allows gas to come through and keeps the wing from icing over,” said Staff Sgt. Christopher Lahey, 19th AMXS Aircraft Structural Maintenance craftsman. “We’ve never done anything to that shape or that radius before which was challenging until we got the proper tools made from the Aircraft Metals Technology shop.”

The structural Airmen worked closely with metals technology, employing their resources and manpower to create new tools and strengthen the structural integrity of the newly overhauled part.  

Through a shared dedication for their work and 504 manhours, the technicians restored the leading edge of a once unserviceable aircraft.

"This is yet another mark that shows the expertise and professionalism of the maintenance shops in enabling Global Combat Airlift here at Little Rock AFB,” said 1st Lt. Deanthony Johnson, 19th AMXS Fabrications Flight commander.