News>Maintainers prop up change: Royal Thai Air Force flies again
Airman 1st Class Patrick Barnicle looks on as Royal Thai Air Force maintainers change a propeller on a C-130 Hercules at Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson during Red Flag-Alaska, Oct. 9. A leak was discovered in the propeller upon arrival at JBER. Barnicle is an aerospace propulsion mechanic with the 374th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron, Yokota Air Base, Japan. (Courtesy photo by Master Sgt. Ryan Ebert)
Royal Thai Air Force maintainers look over their C-130 Hercules at Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson during Red Flag-Alaska, Oct. 12. The C-130 recently had one of its propellers changed due to a leak detected upon arrival at JBER. (U.S. Air Force photo/Tech. Sgt. Brian Ferguson)
10/18/2012 - JONIT BASE ELMENDORF-RICHARDSON, Alaska -- Red Flag-Alaska is designed to test crews during a simulated multi-nation combat operation, pushing Airmen from all over the world to overcome obstacles and work as one cohesive unit.
So, when a C-130 Hercules aircraft from the Royal Thai Air Force had a maintenance problem, it was all hands on deck.
"They asked us to come out because they thought they had a propeller leak and wanted to make sure," said Air Force Staff Sgt. Flariel Nostratis, an aerospace propulsion mechanic. "They have their own maintainers, and they know their job, but this was something they probably don't do everyday."
Because the plane belonged to Thailand, maintainers from the 36th Expeditionary Airlift Squadron, deployed here from the 374th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron, Yokota Air Base, Japan, could not physically work on the aircraft. However, they were able to
"We were out there watching them, giving them advice on what they needed to check," Nostratis said. "The maintenance books for our C-130 and a Thai C-130 should be the same, just in a different language."
A propeller leak is a hydraulic leak within the prop. Nostratis, a Riverside, Calif., native, said that minor leaks are normal and okay, as long as they are within limits.
Once the leak was traced to the propeller, the Thai maintainers made the decision to change it, however, they did not have a spare with them in Alaska, and ordering one would take weeks.
"The decision to help them was a no-brainer," said Air Force Lt. Col. James Hackbarth, 36th Expeditionary Airlift Squadron detachment commander. "We had an extra prop that we brought with us from Yokota."
Working with Pacific Air Forces, the Air Force Security Assistance Center and the Red Flag-Alaska staff, the U.S. Air Force was able to transfer the propeller to the RTAF through foreign military sales, cutting the wait to just two days.
"It's important for us to be able to help our partner nations and our allies be more combat effective and get the training they are coming here for," Hackbarth said. "So by supporting them and working with them on this issue, we have allowed them to be more effective and allowed them to fly in the exercise sooner than if they had to wait on a new prop to be shipped."
Airman 1st Class Patrick Barnicle and Nostratis were on hand during the propeller change.
"We wanted to make sure the Thai maintainers had all the assets available to them for the change," Nostratis said. "Aside from a few words of advice during the removal, it went very smoothly.
The change took the Thai maintainers about five hours to complete.
RTAF Flight Lt. Tanarat Wongwenai, lead Thai maintenance officer at Red Flag, said through an interpreter that it actually takes longer in Thailand to change a prop.
"We were able to use one of the hangars here that had a crane, making replacing the prop so much easier," he said.
The U.S. and Thailand have been participating in exercises together for years. Along with Red Flag-Alaska, the U.S. routinely travels to Thailand to participate in exercises Cope Tiger and Cobra Gold.
"The fact that we are able to work together only strengthens what we are able to do in future engagements and future contingencies," Hackbarth said. "There may be a situation where we are in Thailand and we require some support from our Thai allies."
The propeller change was a success and the RTAF was able to fly the next day.
"The U.S. maintainers who came to advise didn't feel like foreigners," Wongwenai said. "It felt like they were our brothers in the C-130 maintenance world. They just happened to have changed more propellers than we have."