62nd AS maintains student pipeline through fleet transition

  • Published
  • By Senior Airman Jayden Ford
  • 19th Airlift Wing Public Affairs

LITTLE ROCK AIR FORCE BASE, Ark. – The 62nd Airlift Squadron’s mission is to train and deliver the highest quality C-130 aircrew who arrive at their units as combat-minded C-130 professionals.


For the past five years, the Air Force, to include the schoolhouse at the 62nd AS, has been transitioning their C-130J Super Hercules from Block 6.0 to the Block 8.1 upgrade, which advances the aircrafts communication and navigation systems.

During this time, the 62nd AS has worked tirelessly to make the transition seamless for their end users – navigating many obstacles to ensure they train experts on both versions of the aircraft as the rest of the fleet makes the switch.


“The challenge that we face is having to maintain a split-fleet for the entire duration of the transitions to Block 8.1,” said Maj. William Bradford, 62nd AS chief pilot. “As long as the 62nd holds on to the C-130 aircrew training mission, we have to be able to instruct both versions of the aircraft because new students will end up at operational units that still have Block 6.0 tails.”


This also presented the challenge of ensuring that instructors are fully qualified to train aircrew on both Block 6.0 and Block 8.1.


“The situation made it difficult for us because we have to be able to train new instructor pilots to be experts with the Block 8.1 upgrade before they're able to instruct on that version of the aircraft,” Bradford said. “We had to develop a training plan for them to be able to instruct our students in both versions of the aircraft.”


In addition to the need to have pilots qualified on both block upgrades, the squadron saw issues arise as they transitioned their aircraft – maximizing their scheduled training time with a limited number of each version of aircraft while battling maintenance and weather constraints.


“We had to get creative with scheduling to maximize our student flights, as well as add in instructor training on the same lines as our student training,” Bradford said. “We have to be adaptive to efficiently schedule our tails so that we're meeting the overall student requirements and keeping our instructor pilots sharp while managing a split-fleet.”


As the transition continues, incoming instructor pilots in the future could potentially have only been trained on Block 8.1 and need to be trained and qualified to instruct on the Block 6.0 aircraft.


“These pilots that we acquire could have been at units that have fully transitioned to 8.1, so we might actually have to take them and figure out a seasoning program to make them Block 6.0 capable, while still maintaining the quality of training for our students,” Bradford said.


With all of these challenges, the squadron has found new ways of operating and continues to produce combat-minded C-130 aircrew to support the Air Force’s ability to provide rapid global mobility – anytime, anywhere.


“Even despite all these challenges, we are still producing the same quality of student aircrew,” said Maj. Travis Thornton, 62nd AS chief of standardization and evaluation. “We will never lower the standard or the quality of aircrew we produce because of some of the limitations we have, we are just finding unique ways to work through that. It's just a challenge we have to rise up to, but we will not sacrifice the standard of our product going forward to the operational units.”