Publication: International Aviation Safety Association
South African Air
Force Grounds Seven Hercules
International Aviation Safety Association
Pretoria - Seven of the air force's nine C130 Hercules transport aircraft have
been grounded with a wing life-span problem.
An SAAF spokesman Captain Ronald
Maseko said on 24 Feb
that "Information gathered at the Hercules Operators Conference during October
2004 and much more recent follow-up information... indicated a possible impact
on the predicted life-span of the wings of the Hercules C130 fleet of the SAAF."
He indicated that further information had been issued last December by Lockheed
"The SAAF, as a professional military operator acting in the exigencies of
aviation safety, has issued a stop-flying instruction for the fleet with effect
from February 15... Therefore the fleet was not grounded." A former SAAF pilot
said the terms used amounted to the same thing.
Three independent sources have said the grounding relates to
apparently incorrect modifications or maintenance
procedures being carried out on the main wingspar - a
carry-through structural member connecting the two wings.
The SAAF acquired seven of the aircraft in the late 1960s, but the United States
shortly afterwards cut off military aid.
This included assistance on the safe operation of the C130s. Aid was restored
only in 1990s after the settlement of a lawsuit related to illegal activities in
the US by arms agency Armscor.
The US donated a further five airframes a few years ago, of which two were
restored to flying status. All nine were sent in turn to arms company Denel for
a comprehensive upgrade in co-operation with Marshalls of Cambridge, a British
There has been persistent talk in South African aviation circles and with other
members of the C130 Integrated Project Team that the upgrade program had not
been as successful as expected.
Captain Maseko said that two of the nine SAAF C130s were fitted with different
outer wing sections from the seven grounded and that therefore the safety
instruction did not apply to them. "These two aircraft are serviceable and being
operated by the SAAF."
The latest issue of the African Armed Forces Journal reported that Lockheed
Martin appeared keen to establish a continental maintenance depot in South
Africa in co-operation with Denel. These groundings come hard on the heels of
the USAF grounding of large numbers of their older C130ís and the inflight
breakup of an RAF C130 near Baghdad.
acknowledgement to International Aviation Safety Association.
12 December 2004: Hercules numbers put into perspective
"The SAAF acquired 7 C130B
aircraft in 1963. In the late
1990s the USA donated 2 USAF C130B and 3 USN
C130F EDA (ex desert) aircraft to the RSA (SAAF). At the
time it was also decided to upgrade the fleet. However, because of major
airframe corrosion on the C130F aircraft it was decided not to upgrade them.
Thus, 9 aircraft form the tactical medium
airlift capability of the SAAF.
The upgrade project is still ongoing. Four aircraft are at Denel Aviation for
upgrade. Two are in for deep level and
intermediate servicings at 28 Squadron and three aircraft are available for
operational use at 28 Squadron. The money was spent to
upgrade the fleet. Once the project is complete all nine aircraft will be back
in inventory. It is world wide accepted military practice that 50-70% of a fleet
are available on the flight line whilst the remainder are in for servicings.
For the records, one C130F 411 was used in
SAAF colours *1 to relieve the pressure at the height of the upgrade programme."
*1 Clearly not that
much wrong with it.
10 December 2004: SAAF says fleet of C-130s 'are safe'
The SA Air Force (SAAF) denied on
Friday that its fleet of C130 Hercules aircraft was not airworthy *2.
The SAAF was responding to news reports and remarks by some defence attaches
based in Pretoria that the aircraft, in use with 28 Squadron, appeared to be
unsafe. Air Force spokesperson Lieutenant Ronald Maseko also
denied that only two of its transport aircraft
were in flying condition. Maseko said three of the nine on the inventory were in
fact in service.
"Speculation that they are not airworthy is unfounded,"
Maseko told Sapa on enquiry. He explained that the SAAF acquired seven of the
American aircraft in the late 1960s. Some years ago, the United States donated a
further five. Only two of the aircraft were made airworthy, raising the fleet to
nine. The other three were not in service.
Maseko said four of the nine were with
state arms manufacturer Denel for upgrading. Two of the five at 28 Squadron were
currently undergoing "deep level and intermediate service, leaving three that
are serviceable and flying", Maseko said.
There has been talk in aviation industry circles that the
upgrade programme has not been as successful as expected. On Thursday the
transport department announced the country would buy eight to 14 Airbus A400M
military transports between 2010 and 2014, meaning the C130s would be replaced
in six year's time, regardless of the upgrade.
When approached for reaction both Denel and Armscor declined to comment saying
it was sufficient that the air force had already commented.
*2 It is so easy to
read between the lines here.
The DoD put out "information" that the SAAF's Hercules C-130 fleet was unwell.
Why would they do it?
To justify its purchase without any sort of tendering procedures of 8 Airbus
I find it impossible to accept that out of the SAAF's 12 C-130s it could only
get and keep two airworthy.
That's after spending a couple of billion with Denel Aviation and Marshall
Aerospace upgrading at least 9 of them between 1995 and 1999.
Could these two experiences and specialised companies cocked up the
refurbishment? - Surely not.
And not on a relatively simple thing like a wing.
And even if they messed up a wing, these things are still avaiulable because
Hercules still makes C-130s.
And how many flying hours has the entire fleet done since then?
I'm sorry, it just don't make sense.
I smell a bit, dirty rat here.
Sure this country needs to replace the C-130s, but in a properly thought out and
regular way and with an aircraft that we can use and that we can afford.
Maybe the Lockheed Martin Hercules C-130J will be that aircraft.
The Vlossie will fly once more.