Won’t get hosed again: Dobbins technician helps fix C-5

DOBBINS AIR RESERVE BASE, Ga. -- Anyone who’s had their car breakdown knows it always seems to happen at the most inopportune time. The same can be true for aircraft flying important missions on strict deadlines.

A C-5M Super Galaxy here experienced a mechanical issue last week when it was delayed due to an equipment malfunction. The C-5 was one of two Super Galaxies scheduled to deliver communication equipment to Puerto Rico after Hurricane Maria destroyed nearly all of the island’s communication capabilities.

Technicians discovered the issue to be the actuator, which works with the hydraulic system to open the visor so the equipment could be offloaded once the plane arrived in Puerto Rico. The technicians found themselves in a bind. They couldn’t replace the actuator without opening the visor, but they couldn’t open the visor without the actuator. Staff Sgt. Brandon Fox, an aircraft hydraulics journeyman from Dover Air Force Base, Delaware, came up with an idea for bypassing the actuator using two hydraulic hoses. He got the idea approved through the necessary channels, but there was a problem. With time being so critical, they didn’t have time to order a pre-fabricated hose through the supply channels. What’s more, this particular job would require a customized length of hose that wouldn’t be carried in stock, so it would need to be fabricated. They didn’t have the equipment to do this either. Once again they were stuck.

Luckily, a technician from Dobbins stepped in and provided a third solution.

“They said they needed two six-foot hoses fabricated, and that’s the type of work I do in the back shop,” said Master Sgt. D.J. Little, a 94th Maintenance Squadron hydraulic technician. “They were short staffed and were going to have to bring more maintainers in from Dover, which would’ve delayed the mission even more, so I volunteered to help.”

Little worked with the Dover technicians to get the exact specifications of the hoses they needed and got to work fabricating them here in the back shop.

“I told him I’d be able to make them and had them ready in 20 minutes,” said Little.

Little could quickly assemble the hoses, as he’s quite familiar with the routine. He keeps the hoses in stock, so he pulled them from inventory, cut them to size and added the connectors so they could be installed on the C-5 and the technicians could get to work replacing the faulty actuator.

The area where these hoses were installed to bypass the actuator was incredibly small. This proved to be one of the primary challenges, but they were able to connect the hoses, Little said.

Then came the moment of truth.

Little said he normally tests the hoses first before installing them on the aircraft, but given the time critical nature of the repair, he was unable to test them first.

“The first time they were pressurized ever was on the aircraft,” said Little. “You always worry something can happen. When he shot the 3,000 pounds of pressure to it, I felt very relieved it didn’t go blowing everywhere. And then the visor unlocked and it started moving. That was mission accomplished.”

With the visor now unlocked and fully raised, the technicians could get to work replacing the actuator so they could get the C-5 back up in the air and on its way to Puerto Rico to offload the equipment.

“I had no clue how important the mission was and then finding out this morning how critical it actually was that it got fixed; I was just doing my job,” said Little. “My proudest moment is knowing that I had a positive effect in helping a lot of people.”

The technicians involved in making these critical repairs may have thought this was an ordinary part of the job, but to those overseeing relief efforts, their hard work and dedication was identified as extraordinary.

"At the end of the day, when this thing lands, there will be people on the ground who can now communicate with their families where they couldn’t before, " said Brig. Gen. Thomas Kennett, director of mobility forces for hurricane relief efforts. "I just wanted to say thank you and I appreciate your work."