Air Force Grounds C-130Hs to Examine Propeller Barrel Cracks

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A C-130H Hercules aircraft assigned to the 910th Airlift Wing performs an assault landing at Youngstown Air Reserve Station, Ohio, Sept. 16, 2022. (Eric M. White/U.S. Air Force photo)
A C-130H Hercules aircraft assigned to the 910th Airlift Wing performs an assault landing at Youngstown Air Reserve Station, Ohio, Sept. 16, 2022. (Eric M. White/U.S. Air Force photo)

More than 100 of the Air Force's C-130 Hercules have stopped flying after the service discovered a crack in a part that holds the propeller and ordered the aircraft to be grounded last week, officials said. 

In total, 116 C-130Hs could be affected by the issue, Air Mobility Command spokeswoman Marie Ortiz told Military.com on Tuesday. The issue was first discovered at Robins Air Force Base in Georgia. 

"During a post-depot operation engine run check at Warner Robins Air Logistics Complex, the maintenance crew encountered a persistent leak on one of their C-130H propellers," Ortiz said in an emailed statement. "When the propeller assembly was removed and turned into the WR-ALC Prop Shop, a technician noted a crack in the propeller barrel assembly."

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Additional inspections showed that two other propeller assemblies also had cracks. This led to the service issuing widespread, one-time mandated inspections on certain C-130H aircraft.

It's not yet clear how long it will take Air Mobility Command to replace the propeller assemblies on the affected C-130Hs.

Similar issues have popped up for the C-130Hs in the past. More than 100 of the cargo aircraft were temporarily removed from service after wing cracks were discovered during routine maintenance in August 2019, Military.com previously reported.

Earlier in 2019, 60 C-130H Hercules aircraft were taken out of service to examine and replace engine propeller blades that inspectors deemed risky because the blades were manufactured before 1971.

The C-130 Hercules is just the latest aircraft to be grounded by the service. 

In mid-August, Air Force Special Operations Command ordered all its CV-22 Ospreys to stop flying after recording four hard clutch engagements since 2017, an issue in which power surges into one of the two engines on the aircraft. None of those incidents happened in combat environments, and none was fatal. 

By September, the Ospreys were cleared to fly again, but the root problem still hasn't been identified. 

In late July, Air Combat Command (ACC) grounded its fleet of F-35A Lightning II jets and the 19th Air Force's Air Education and Training Command stopped flying nearly 300 of its T-38 Talon and T-6 Texan II training planes over concerns about their ejection seats after a recall was issued on a part.

By mid-August, the F-35s and training planes were back in the air again. 

While numerous stand-downs and grounded flights have happened this year, fatal and major mishaps as a whole are down for the service. 

As of late August, the Air Force Safety Center had reported a total of 20 Class A mishaps, which result in a death or permanent disability, more than $2.5 million in damage, or the destruction of an aircraft, between manned and unmanned aircraft. There were 21 Class A mishaps in 2021 and 29 in 2020.

There was one fatality reported in fiscal 2022, which ended Sept. 30, per the data. By comparison, there were three reported deaths in 2021 and seven in 2020.

Dave Deptula, a retired Air Force lieutenant general and dean of the nonprofit Mitchell Institute for Aerospace Power, told Military.com the Air Force is notably getting more cautious when it detects technical and mechanical issues, something that has helped decrease accidents and fatalities. 

"The accident rates have come down astronomically from where they were in the '50s, '60s, '70s, '80s," Deptula said. "Part of that reason is that the Air Force, over time, it's done an excellent job in tracking and following up on mishaps and then taking corrective action. ... We are getting smarter and smarter about anticipating potential mishap-prone issues and trying to correct them before a mishap occurs."

-- Thomas Novelly can be reached at thomas.novelly@military.com. Follow him on Twitter @TomNovelly.

Related: Air Force Takes C-130s Out of Service to Examine Suspect Propeller Blades

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