Hercules gets a bath for the New Year

A WC-130H Hercules from the 125th Fighter Wing in Jacksonville, Fla. gets a scrub down at Yeager Airport, Charleston, W.Va., Friday, Jan. 8, 2010. The crew of four airmen washed the right side of the aircraft in the morning and work on the left side after lunch. The West Virginia Air National Guard has a contract with the unit in Florida to perform maintenance on the aircraft. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. William Hinamon/Released)

A WC-130H Hercules from the 125th Fighter Wing in Jacksonville, Fla. gets a scrub down at Yeager Airport, Charleston, W.Va., Friday, Jan. 8, 2010. The crew of four airmen washed the right side of the aircraft in the morning and work on the left side after lunch. The West Virginia Air National Guard has a contract with the unit in Florida to perform maintenance on the aircraft. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. William Hinamon/Released)

Tech. Sgt. Adam Mace of the 130th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron at Yeager Airport, W.Va. sprays down the underside of a wing on a WC-130H Hercules plane, Friday, Jan. 8, 2010. It took nine hours for a crew of four airmen to soap up, scrub down and spray off the aircraft. Maintenance personnel wash each aircraft twice a year. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. William Hinamon/Released)

Tech. Sgt. Adam Mace of the 130th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron at Yeager Airport, W.Va. sprays down the underside of a wing on a WC-130H Hercules plane, Friday, Jan. 8, 2010. It took nine hours for a crew of four airmen to soap up, scrub down and spray off the aircraft. Maintenance personnel wash each aircraft twice a year. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. William Hinamon/Released)

Tech. Sgt. Adam Mace of the 130th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron at Yeager Airport, W.Va. oversees a crew of three washing a WC-130H Hercules plane, Friday, Jan. 8, 2010. Tech. Sgt. Mace wears safety goggles, rubber boots, gloves, and rain gear to protect him from the water and corrosive aircraft soap. It takes about nine hours for four airmen to soap up, scrub down and spray off the aircraft. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. William Hinamon/Released)

Tech. Sgt. Adam Mace of the 130th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron at Yeager Airport, W.Va. oversees a crew of three washing a WC-130H Hercules plane, Friday, Jan. 8, 2010. Tech. Sgt. Mace wears safety goggles, rubber boots, gloves, and rain gear to protect him from the water and corrosive aircraft soap. It takes about nine hours for four airmen to soap up, scrub down and spray off the aircraft. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. William Hinamon/Released)

Staff Sgt. Phillip Stumpf scrubs the exhaust track of a WC-130H Hercules at Yeager Airport, Charleston, W.Va., Friday, Jan. 8, 2010. A crew of four airmen washed the right side of the aircraft in the morning, and worked on the left side in the afternoon. The West Virginia Air National Guard has a contract with the 125th Fighter Wing in Jacksonville, Fla. to perform maintenance on the fighter wing's lone Hercules aircraft. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. William Hinamon/Released)

Staff Sgt. Phillip Stumpf scrubs the exhaust track of a WC-130H Hercules at Yeager Airport, Charleston, W.Va., Friday, Jan. 8, 2010. A crew of four airmen washed the right side of the aircraft in the morning, and worked on the left side in the afternoon. The West Virginia Air National Guard has a contract with the 125th Fighter Wing in Jacksonville, Fla. to perform maintenance on the fighter wing's lone Hercules aircraft. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. William Hinamon/Released)

CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- The C-130 Hercules.

Its military uses include gunship, tanker, bomber, drone mother-ship, psychological warfare, special operations, electronic intelligence, command and control, and humanitarian support to disaster areas.

Occasionally it needs a bath.

"Every 180 days," says Tech. Sgt. Adam Mace, an Aircraft Mechanic with the 130th Maintenance Squadron at Yeager Airport in Charleston, W.Va. "We do this right before every ISO inspection," he says.

An ISO, or isochronal inspection, is a phase of aircraft maintenance based on calendar days.

"Right before every ISO inspection it comes in and gets washed, and then halfway through this phase, before the next ISO, it gets washed again; so, it gets two washes a year," explains Tech. Sgt. Mace.

Washing a C-130 transport aircraft is almost the same as washing a car, except maintenance uses a heavy industrial soap that is mildly corrosive.

"There's soot from the running of the engines; on the flap wells you'll have greases, oils, and hydraulic fluids; and around the engines you might have some JP-8 fuel," says Master Sgt. Kraig Thomas, Inspection Element Supervisor, 130th Maintenance Squadron.

They use a low pressure spray gun that foams the soap so it clings to the surface of the aircraft and has a longer hang time. Then the scrubbing begins.

"We start at the bottom and wash our way to the top," says Tech. Sgt. Mace. "We get the gears, then we get the wing and the tail, and then we get on top of the wings."

Ideally, 8 to 10 maintenance troops will wash the aircraft at once; however, on this wintery day in early January, Tech. Sgt. Mace has a crew of four. It will take them about nine hours, washing the right side of the aircraft in the morning, and the left side after lunch.

"This plane is from Jacksonville and it flies over salt water. Salt water's real corrosive so it's important that we get it cleaned," says Tech. Sgt. Mace.

This particular C-130 belongs to the 125th Fighter Wing of the Florida Air National Guard. It was once used to track hurricanes.

"Once we're done washing, we'll clean all the water off the floor. Tomorrow everybody will come in and start working on it," says Tech. Sgt. Mace.

The C-130 Hercules, affectionately known as "Herky," is truly the workhorse of the military. You can certainly call it "a wash-and-wear aircraft."
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