Air Force grounds C-130 fleet worldwide

The Air Force has apparently grounded its fleet of venerable — but still vital — C-130 aircraft Thursday although the details remain sketchy.

Air Force Pentagon spokesperson Vicki Stein confirmed that a time compliance technical order had been issued requiring inspection of bolts in the wing joint barrel of the four-engined, turboprop cargo aircraft.

“We don’t know the extent of it yet,” Stein said by telephone Thursday afternoon, although she confirmed that the grounding affected all Air Force C-130s worldwide — a fleet size of more than 600 aircraft. What triggered the TCTO, how long the inspection might take and the full scope of the investigation were not immediately known.

Robins Air Force Base is the Air Force’s support agency for the cargo workhorse. Robins officials declined to comment on the move.

“The direction we got said no internal or external news releases,” confirmed John Birdsong, Robins spokesman.

Marietta-based Lockheed Martin, the C-130 manufacturer, could not be reached for comment.

For more than 50 years, the C-130 has been the tactical airlift backbone for the U.S. Air Force and for many air forces around the world. According to Air Force data, the C-130 first became operational in December 1956. More than 2,000 aircraft in 70 variants and five basic models have been produced.

To contact Gene Rector, call 923-3109, extension 239.