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Image: U.S. Air Force Senior Airman Joseph Mathiesen, 62nd Aircraft Maintenance Squadron crew chief, works on a C-130E Hercules at Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Washington, June 13, 2021. The 62nd AMXS worked alongside several other units in order to coordinate and carry out the successful removal of the C-130’s wings, engine, fuel tanks, lower antennas and landing gear doors so the aircraft could be towed down the McChord Field flightline and put on display after restoration. The C-130 was restored by volunteers and will be the newest addition to the aircraft of McChord Air Museum on Heritage Hill. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Zoe Thacker)

Airmen with several units across Team McChord, including the 62nd Aircraft Maintenance Squadron and 62nd Maintenance Squadron, assisted in the movement of a C-130E Hercules aircraft to its new home on Heritage Hill for the McChord Air Museum here, June 13, 2021.

“There were several moving pieces that all needed to be timed properly and coordinated with several agencies to make the move happen,” said Senior Master Sgt. Joshua Pechacek, 62nd AMXS superintendent. “In order to prepare the aircraft for the move to Heritage Hill, we first had to coordinate with Air Force Materiel Command for approval to do the work ourselves. The Expeditionary Depot Maintenance team out of Robins Air Force Base [in Georgia] are the ones who normally perform the operations for wing removal and towing aircraft to airparks – unless it’s contracted out.”

Unfortunately, they were unavailable due to COVID-19 restrictions causing a back log of mission critical and real world work and could not support, so the teams here decided to press on with the work themselves, continued Pechacek.

“Then we had to locate the C-130 support equipment needed in order to remove the wings and engines,” Pechacek said.  “After locating the equipment and negotiating terms, we arrangements to borrow the items needed from both Little Rock Air Force Base [in Arkansas] and Hurlburt Field [in Florida] by utilizing off station training missions flown by our 62nd OPS team.”

After that, the 62nd AMXS had to coordinate with multiple McChord and installation agencies here to trim trees, close roads, transport wings, lower street signs and lower lights for aircraft clearances. Additionally, they used all-terrain forklifts to tow the aircraft to its final parking position because normal aircraft tow vehicles weighed too much and would crack newly poured concrete slabs.

Once the wings and engine were removed on June 12, the affectionately nicknamed “789” was ready to be towed from the museum hangar, down the active runway and through the McChord Field streets.

In a process dubbed Operation Herculean Move by the museum, the C-130E was towed, with Airmen from the 62nd MXG onboard and walking alongside to ensure a safe trip, through the middle of McChord Field’s streets; passing by spectators, the wing’s headquarters building, known as “The Castle,” and other aircraft positioned on Heritage Hill.

The maintenance teams were notified about the project in August 2020 but ran into various delays, like a runway/taxiway closure on the flightline and delays in the pouring of the concrete pad; but the team pulled together and got the job done in order to get “789” to her new home.

“The bulk of the work on the aircraft started on June 9 and lasted until June 21,” Pechacek said. “We had a very young crew, most were ranking senior airmen or below with no C-130 experience, but they did an amazing job.

The tail number painted on the aircraft, 7788, pays homage to the one of the most beloved “Herks” assigned to the 36th Tactical Airlift Squadron when it was at McChord Field. However, the original “7788” aircraft now only exists in memories, pictures and in the form of its C-130E stand-in that was moved to Heritage Hill [tail number 789].

On Feb. 27, 2003, tail number 7788 would complete its final flight after 40 years of service to our Nation. This flight was a voyage into retirement at the Aerospace Maintenance and Regeneration Center (AMARC) at Davis-Monthan Air Force Base, Arizona. The aircraft’s stay at AMARC would last almost 10 years before being scrapped in February 2013.

A ribbon-cutting ceremony to welcome the C-130E to its new home is set for later this year.

Credit:  Senior Airman Zoe Thacker, 62nd Airlift Wing Public Affairs

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