Moody preps for HC-130J flight

  • Published
  • By Staff Sgt. Jamal Sutter
  • 23d Wing Public Affairs
When a child receives a shiny, new toy, his first thought is to unwrap it and test it out immediately, a concept that's very different when a base receives a new aircraft.

Moody welcomed its shiny, new toy, the HC-130J Combat King II, during an arrival ceremony July 19, but Airmen have been dedicating themselves to get familiar with the aircraft before its first launch here.

One way of establishing familiarization is the field training detachment (FTD) program.

The FTD program is designed to give Airmen further education on their airframe after they receive initial training and experience at their units, said U.S. Air Force Tech. Sgt. David Poe, 372nd Training Squadron Detachment 9 C-130 airframe power plant general training instructor.

For the new HC-130J, Airmen go through the program to learn about its upgraded features and the differences between the aircraft and its predecessor, the HC-130P Combat King, an aircraft that has been around for nearly 50 years.

"As of right now, there are only a few individuals that have been trained on this airframe (HC-130J)," Poe said. "We have students, now, going through the courses so they can get trained on how to operate the avionic systems [and] the aircraft itself."

During the 15-day course, Airmen learn specifics on the Combat King II such as data bus systems, applying power to the aircraft, and operating its flight control and landing gear systems, Poe added.

Airmen with job specialties including aerospace maintenance, avionics, and communication and navigation systems are among those going through the program. Once a student gets back to their units, FTD instructors expect them to comfortably be able to apply their new-found knowledge to the skills and experience they already have.

"When a student leaves this course, we want them to have a full understanding--not only how to operate the system, but how the operational system talks to the mission computer and how you're able to navigate through the systems themselves," Poe said.

Likewise, pilots and combat systems officers (CSO) are also doing their share of training and preparation for the J model.

"Right now, we have about four pilots at Little Rock [Air Force Base, Ark.] going through basic qualifications," said Capt. Jeffrey Mitchell, 71st Rescue Squadron CSO. "We got three or four at Kirtland [Air Force Base, N.M.] going through mission qualifications. So the pilots have two tracks; they go Little Rock [to] Kirtland, whereas the combat systems officer just goes to Kirtland and back. So that's about five months for each of them."

Mitchell is the first qualified HC-130J CSO, or navigator, at Moody, and he says his position is essential to future J-model CSOs at Moody.

"My role is actually pretty important, because I have to pave the way for the rest of the guys coming in," he said. "So I'm going to be standing up all the training [and] building new routes. We have to coordinate with the P models ... work in slot time with them. So we still have to work with our legacy brothers."

With the addition of the new aircraft and its new features, however, comes the loss of two crew positions held with the HC-130P. As a result, J-model CSOs and pilots will undergo additional training to learn those positions and pick up the slack.

"The biggest hurdle to overcome is losing the radio operators and engineers," Mitchell said. "They are requiring the CSO and pilots to pick up those crew positions, so it's--alright, who does this job now? This guy did it before, but he's not there anymore."

Moody plans to launch the HC-130J in October, but even after it takes off for the first time from Moody's runway, the training doesn't stop there.

"We're using the crawl, walk, run method," Mitchell said. "We don't even have enough pilots to fly yet, so we need another pilot to come in. Once he gets here, we'll start doing pilot-proficiency lines ... just take offs [and] landings, getting proficient with that."

Until then, Airmen like Mitchell will continue doing what they do every day and taking pride in being part of Moody history.

"It really is nice to be a part of the spearhead of the brand-new program, because I've been in legacy for about eight or nine years," Mitchell said. "I actually had to leave Dyess [Air Force Base, Texas] because of the J model ... being a part of a program like this is awesome."