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Kodiak: Coast Guard ground crews keep C-130s flying

Posted by PA1 Sara Francis, Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Air Station Kodiak is home to four of the Coast Guard’s 27 HC-130H Hercules airplanes. These aircraft are the mainstay of the air fleet and one of the Coast Guard’s long-range aircraft. They are capable of transporting up to 51,000 pounds of personnel and cargo, and conducting search and rescue and surveillance missions.
A Coast Guard HC-130 Hercules line crew readies the airplane for its next flight following its return to Air Station Kodiak, Alaska, from a more than 3,000 miles round trip to the Western Aleutian Islands, Wednesday, Oct. 17, 2012. U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 1st Class Sara Francis.
What does it take to keep Air Station Kodiak’s Hercules aircraft flying? In addition to pilots, crew, occasional repairs and heavy maintenance they require regular refueling and resupplying just like your car or truck. Each time a Hercules airplane returns to base the men and women of the air station’s HC-130 line crew meet the aircraft, guide it into place at the hangar, and ready the aircraft for its next flight.
Petty Officer 2nd Class Reynald Depedro, an avionics electrical technician, refuels an HC-130 Hercules airplane following its return from Operation Bering Shield Wednesday, Oct. 17, 2012, at Air Station Kodiak, Alaska. U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 1st Class Sara Francis.
“We have regularly scheduled missions for law enforcement and logistics but we also get called out for search and rescue and you can’t plan for those so it’s important that we have the aircraft ready for the next flight,” said Lt. Jim Morrow, HC-130 Hercules airplane pilot and assistant law enforcement department officer, Air Station Kodiak.
Lt. James Morrow, an HC-130 Hercules airplane pilot, enters a crew mission report about a critical habitat patrol his crew just returned from Tuesday, Oct. 17, 2012, at Air Station Kodiak. U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 1st Class Sara Francis.
Morrow was one of two pilots returning to Air Station Kodiak Wednesday evening after conducting a critical habitat patrol in the Aleutian Islands. The aircrew flew the plane to Shemya Island Tuesday, spent the night at the Air Force operated Eareckson Air Station, and flew more than 1,400 miles back to Kodiak. Along the flight path the crew surveyed Steller sea lion rookeries and haul outs to confirm any commercial fishing vessels operating in the area were doing so within federal regulations. The crew also made a stop in Dutch Harbor to pick up a helicopter crewman for transport back to Kodiak.

With a safe landing and a successful mission under their belt the pilots may be done with the plane but they aren’t done with their day. After landing Morrow electronically signed the plane back into the air station’s inventory, noted any issues they may have had so the maintenance crew can address them and wrote his mission report. The reports vary depending on the type of mission the crew flew and can include details about vessels they encountered or equipment deployed and weather information.
Petty Officer 3rd Class Brandon Turner, an aviation maintenance technician, cleans the windows of an HC-130 Hercules airplane following its return from an Operation Bering Shield flight Wednesday, Oct. 17, 2012. U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 1st Class Sara Francis.
Upon landing in Kodiak they taxied to the air station’s Hangar One and were met by the line crew. These men and women quickly set about cleaning the interior of the plane, washing the windows, restocking the disposable items like paper towels and coffee and refueling the aircraft. If a plane is carrying cargo they’ll also assist the aircrew with its offload.

The crew of a Hercules can fly continuously for around eight hours but prepping the aircraft, take off and landing figure into the crew’s mission day too and depending on the conditions that can make for a very long day. The function of the line crew is not only to relieve the aircrew and get them into crew rest but also to get the plane ready for the next crew and the next mission.

Air Station Kodiak went through launch procedures for their Hercules airplanes 1,129 times in fiscal year 2012 for missions ranging from helicopter support to search and rescue to training to counter narcotics missions with U.S. Southern Command. The four airplanes and around 140 Hercules-specific crew are integral to the success of Coast Guard missions in Alaska.