VIENNA TOWNSHIP, Ohio (WKBN) – The sound of C-130s flying makes you feel at home in Youngstown, but it’s been quieter lately.
Youngstown commander Colonel Jeff Van Dootingh remembers getting a September call from a general saying to ground all the planes. He has been in the Air Force for 38 years and this is the first he’s seen an entire fleet grounded.
“I honestly thought somebody might be punking me. I was looking for the hidden camera,” Van Dootingh said.
Over 100 of the Air Force planes were grounded nationwide on September 27 by a Time Compliance Technical Order. Each of them needed to be inspected immediately.
“Everyone of our planes has at least one propeller assembly that was not serviceable and in most cases, awful,” Van Dootingh said.
The 910th Airlift Wing has eight assigned C130s. The Skeeter Swatter is probably one of the most popular. When the planes were grounded because of the propeller problem, one of them was in Idaho. It’s still there waiting to be fixed.
The problem is in the innards of the hub assembly. Cracks were forming where the part was spinning very, very fast. A break could’ve led to a catastrophe. One of the planes has been fixed and is flying. The 910th is waiting for parts to fix more.
“Knock on wood, we should get another set in tomorrow, and we’ll get a second aircraft up in the air shortly,” Van Dootingh said.
The aircrew members can do ground training. They’re sharing a plane that is flying now to keep them current and qualified.
Replacement parts are in short supply. The first estimate Van Dootingh remembers hearing was two years to solve the situation. He was told yesterday, the Air Force is ahead of schedule.
“Either way, we will either get new props or newer C130-Hs. Possibly we will get the brand new C-130-Js,” Van Dootingh said.
Van Dootingh expects that announcement within a month. About eight of the newest C-130 models are going to a reserve base. Youngstown is in the running for those.
Meanwhile, the job continues for other airmen whose jobs are not 100% tied to the flying mission.