C-5 maintainers finish challenging job

wcrenshaw@macon.comMay 23, 2013 

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The nose is lifted on a C-5M Super Galaxy on the flight line at Robins Air Force Base on Thursday afternoon. The plane was at Robins receiving programmed depot maintenance after sustaining damage while in Afghanistan.

JASON VORHEES — jvorhees@macon.com Buy Photo

ROBINS AIR FORCE BASE -- Maintainers at Robins have just completed an especially challenging overhaul and repair on a C-5M, and officials say the experience will help with future aircraft.

The C-5 came to Robins last year for its regularly scheduled programmed depot maintenance, which is extensive overhauling done every eight years. But the plane also came in with significant damage to the left wheel well.

The damage occurred in Afghanistan when the plane struck water pooled on a runway. Dave Nakayama, director of the 569th Maintenance Squadron, said that’s a bigger problem than it might seem.

“It would be like if you jumped off a 20-story building into a swimming pool,” he said.

The repair required 6,000 man-hours of work and involved a wide range of organizations on base, including engineers, planners, supply personnel and maintainers. The plane was finished on schedule and on Tuesday will fly back to its home base, Dover Air Force Base, Del.

The project was important, Nakayama said, because there are only 10 C-5Ms in the Air Force. The “M” stands for modernized, and the upgrades make it the most advanced of the C-5s, including better avionics and more powerful engines. The C-5 is the largest cargo plane in the Air Force.

“There was a huge demand by the customer to get this plane through (programmed depot maintenance) and fixed as soon as possible,” he said.

He declined to say how much the repair cost.

The project also included the first interior refurbishment Robins maintainers have done on a C-5. That involved replacing sidewall panels and painting the entire cargo department, flight deck and troop deck. Anti-skid surface was added to the cargo floor, ramps and ladders.

When the plane was damaged in Afghanistan it couldn’t be flown. Three engineers from Robins went there to assist with making a temporary repair that would enable it to fly to Robins.

Representatives of Lockheed-Martin, the builder of the C-5, were closely involved with the repair. Lawrence Davis, a field service liaison for the company, said the experience provided an opportunity to learn about issues that will assist with future maintenance on C-5s at Robins.

Wilbur Mathews, the work leader for the repair team, said the team effort on the project helped the mechanics get the job done. He said the mechanics used parts from a 1970 model C-5 to make the repair on the C-5M, a 1986 model.

“We had a lot of support from the time it was damaged in the field to the time we got going with it,” he said. “Anything we needed, we got the first priority.”

To contact writer Wayne Crenshaw, call 256-9725.

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