All eight C-130H transport aircraft now operating from the 130th Airlift Wing's base at Charleston's Yeager Airport are among more than 120 C-130s in the U.S. Air Force and Air National Guard inventory ordered grounded by the Air Force's Air Mobility Command on Thursday pending safety inspections.
The inspections, expected to take eight hours for each aircraft, were ordered "as a precautionary measure," according to Maj. Holli Nelson, state public affairs officer for the West Virginia National Guard.
According to an article in Thursday's Stars and Stripes, the temporary grounding and inspections were ordered after cracks were discovered on the lower center wing joint, also known as the "rainbow fitting," of a Georgia Air National Guard C-130 undergoing maintenance at Robbins Air Force Base.
"Aircraft that are inspected and determined to have no cracking will be immediately returned to service," Nelson said. "If cracking is identified during the eight-hour inspections, a depot-level replacement of the rainbow fitting will be required."
In such cases, the aircraft would either be flown to a depot or a depot repair team would travel to the aircraft's location, depending on the degree of severity, she said. Replacement of cracked rainbow fittings involves a process that takes one to two months to complete, Nelson said.
More than one-fourth of all C-130s in the Air Mobility Command were included in the groundings and inspections, according to Stars and Stripes.
"The safety and security of our airmen is our number-one priority in the West Virginia Air National Guard and this temporary removal from service of aircraft in our C-130 fleet is in the interest of good stewardship and our ability to keep our promises to the troops who depend on the tactical airlift we provide," Nelson said.