The Air Force grounded most of its C-130H fleet for a mechanical problem

The US Air Force has halted flights of more than 100 of its cargo planes, citing the need to repair faulty propeller gun assemblies. If left unresolved, the issue could crack propellers and endanger aircraft and crew.

USAF Air Mobility Command confirmed to Task & Purpose that 116 aircraft, mostly C-130Hs, including variants, are grounded. Air Mobility Command has 128 C-130H aircraft. Following an engine function check at the Warner Robins Air Logistics Center, airmen found a leak in one of the propellers.

“When the propeller assembly was removed and returned to the WR-ALC prop shop, a technician noticed a crack in the propeller body assembly. Upon subsequent inspections, two sets additional propellers were discovered with the same issue,” Air Mobility Command said in a statement to Task & Purpose. “These findings led the first Safety Time Compliance Technical Order (TCTO) to conduct an inspection visual at ground level on all C-130H aircraft models with 54H60 accessories installed. After further review, including metallurgical and detailed stress analysis, the command issued an immediate action TCTO directing the replacement of a variety of specific suspect propellers.

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The problem is specific to aircraft equipped with 54H60 propellers. A cracked propeller barrel assembly poses a “significant risk” to aircraft in flight, the USAF said. The grounding order does not impact C-130H aircraft equipped with the new NP2000 propeller set, or Air Force C-130J models. It is not immediately clear how this will affect Air Mobility Command operations.

The Air Force ordered that the parts be replaced with newer NP2000 propeller assemblies to avoid any safety risk. However, the “timeframe for resolution” is unclear, but Air Mobility Command said the USAF is working aggressively to restart flight operations. Several dozen C-130Hs had a similar problem in 2019, which also resulted in a brief grounding.

The news was first shared on an unofficial Air Force Facebook page, with one user posting a screenshot of a timing compliance engineering order for aircraft, which mentioned grounding them.

Aircraft require ongoing maintenance and inspection in order to remain ready for flight. The Air Force so often finds problems requiring repair on its planes that a “black letter” maintenance report – so called because there are no problems written on it in red ink – is “super rare “.

The faulty propeller gun assembly with the C-130H fleet is the latest problem with the service’s aircraft. In August, the Air Force Special Operations Command grounded its fleet of V-22 Ospreys due to a hard clutch engagement problem; they were cleared to fly in September, but the problem was given a workaround, not fully resolved.

David Roza contributed to this article.

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