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Air Force Returns C-130s to Flight After Safety Inspections

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The U.S. Air Force says it has completed the necessary examinations of its C-130 Hercules aircraft after about a quarter of the cargo plane fleet was grounded earlier this month for precautionary inspections related to cracks in the wings.

The service has inspected 113 aircraft, and 112 have been cleared for operational duty, according to an Aug. 21 news release. One C-130 was found to have damaged rainbow fittings, which provide structural support within the wings, according to Maj. Jonathan Simmons, an Air Mobility Command (AMC) spokesman.

That aircraft will undergo additional depot maintenance, he said Friday.

On Aug. 7, Gen. Maryanne Miller, head of AMC, ordered 123 of the 450 C-130 models on Air Force flight lines to be stood down as a safety precaution after “atypical cracks were discovered on the lower center wing joint,” also known as the rainbow fitting, according to a service news release at the time.

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Those aircraft began an “immediate time compliance technical order (TCTO) inspection to identify and correct any cracking to ensure airworthiness of these C-130 aircraft,” AMC said.

The order applied to those C-130H and J-model aircraft “that have not received the extended service life center wing box and have greater than 15,000 equivalent flight hours,” the service said at the time of the standdown.

There were 96 H and 36 J variants impacted. Of those, 123 were on the flight lines. Eight aircraft were already in depot; another was transferred to the boneyard, according to AMC.

Ten remaining aircraft have been in depot since the the TCTO was ordered and will be inspected “during the course of their scheduled depot inspections and maintenance,” the Air Force said in the Aug. 21 release.

“The safety of our airmen is our highest priority,” Miller said. “We sought to address this issue with crew safety first and foremost in mind, and we’re working across the Total Force, our sister services and our industry partners to ensure all affected personnel and equipment are safeguarded.”

The service said the temporary removal did not impact C-130 support to overseas contingency operations.

Earlier this year, the Air Force took 60 C-130H model aircraft out of service to examine and replace engine propeller blades that inspectors deemed risky because the blades were manufactured before 1971. Many were removed as a safety precaution.

— Oriana Pawlyk can be reached at oriana.pawlyk@military.com. Follow her on Twitter at @Oriana0214.

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