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No plane left behind

  • Published
  • By Staff Sgt. Noah J. Tancer
  • 910th Airlift Wing Public Affairs

The 910th Airlift Wing dispatched a maintenance recovery team to Mountain Home Air Force Base, Idaho, Jan. 9–20, 2023, on a mission to get their grounded aerial spray-capable C-130H Hercules aircraft up in the air again. 

The 910th AW is tasked with the Department of Defense’s only large-area fixed-wing aerial spray capability to eliminate pest insects, control undesirable vegetation and disperse oil spills in large bodies of water. The unit regularly combats the invasive cheatgrass on MHAFB’s bombing range, preventing wildfires and making ordinance recovery safer.

On Sept. 27, 2022, Air Mobility Command grounded 116 C-130H Hercules aircraft after inspections raised concern about widespread defects in the propeller assemblies. As a result, Youngstown Air Reserve Station’s fleet was grounded, and the aircraft that was at Mountain Home was stuck in Idaho.

“Our aircraft was incapable of making its way home until all four props were changed,” said Senior Master Sgt. Tom Seger, the propulsions supervisor with the 910th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron. “So we sent our mechanics to it.”

The MRT package consisted of 36 maintainers covering a multitude of career fields essential to the inspection and repair of the aircraft. 

“We’ve all done quite a bit of training to keep our aircraft flying,” said Seger. “But primarily for MRTs you send your most proficient technicians with your highest skill level to do the job as quickly and safely as possible.”

After a successful engine run, test flight and final departure back to YARS, the 910th AW now has an additional operational aircraft.

“Our maintenance team was out there getting it done from the minute they hit the ground,” said Lt. Col. Drew Tancer, a pilot assigned to the 757th Airlift Squadron and flight commander for the test flight. “It was probably one of the better functional flight checks I’ve ever had. So yeah, props to them, pun intended.”

Pilots are required to stay current on multiple flight capabilities like cargo drops, landings and formation flying. As maintainers return more aircraft to airworthiness, the 910th’s aircrews have a greater capacity to train and remain combat-ready.

Tancer said they’ve been flying their airworthy aircraft practically every day at a 100 percent utilization rate to meet flying requirements with the limited assets. 

“It’s unheard of in the maintenance community,” said Tancer. “Our maintenance teams are literally going out of their way to keep the aircraft flying because they know how important the situation is for us to stay current on our requirements.”

Youngstown Air Reserve Station is slated for the repair of another aircraft in February and yet another in August of 2023. Returning more aircraft to service has allowed the 910th’s aerial spray mission to start back up with a scheduled trip to spray for undesired vegetation at Hill Air Force Base, Utah, in March of 2023.

The team’s equipment and most of the members were transported to and from MHAFB by a C-17 Globemaster III from Pittsburgh Air Reserve Station, Pennsylvania. The 911th Airlift Wing also assisted YARS in the transportation of the 910th AW’s modular aerial spray system back to its home station, marking the first time in the special mission’s history that the system has been transported via C-17.