Before each and every delivery of a CC-130J Hercules to its new home base at 8 Wing Trenton, Ont., a small team of Royal Canadian Air Force technicians and records personnel from 436 Transport Squadron travel to the Lockheed Martin production facility in Marietta, Georgia, to check over the transport aircraft.
Test pilots from Lockheed Martin get a crack at the yoke and pedals over a five-day period prior to the RCAF’s pre-acceptance evaluation (PAE) team’s thorough inspection to ensure that each of the new J-models, the Canadian Force’s new workhorse, is airworthy.
Once that round of test flights are deemed successful, the PAE team, comprising six team members plus a project management representative, arm themselves with flashlights and mirrors and check out each aircraft from stem to stern, port to starboard. The technicians report any defects to the Lockheed Martin staff.
"If an air technician finds an issue, they annotate it on a serialized ‘squawk sheet’, transfer the serial number to a ‘re-work’ decal, and affix the decal to the aircraft where they noticed the issue," said Corporal Matt Young, an avionics systems technician on the PAE team.
Lockheed Martin technicians then review each and every squawk against blueprints, diagrams and charts. The squawk is immediately fixed if it is validated. If it is found to be invalid, it is concluded that the aircraft has been built in accordance with the specifications and quality control system.
While the technicians are busy looking for squawks, the records team has the arduous task of transferring all of the contractor’s data related to line replaceable units (commonly called black boxes), major and sub assemblies, and serialized equipment into component data records.
"[Transferring all that data] was no cut and paste job,” said Cpl Chris Skanes, an aviation systems technician on the PAE team. “Much of this information was in hard copy, which increased the level of focus required to ensure data integrity during transcription."
The PAE process, which takes four to five days, allows RCAF technicians to perform a thorough evaluation of each aircraft at the assembly facility so that the CF receives an airworthy J-model.
Once the PAE team is finished, there is a two-day ground checkout and then RCAF pilots fly the aircraft over a five-day customer flight period.
The aircraft becomes property of the CF and RCAF when a representative of the Canadian government signs the DD-250 report, the United States Department of Defense material inspection and receiving report. This document attests that the completed aircraft meets its performance specification and all quality standards.
Once that form is signed, the ferry flight to the aircraft’s new home at 8 Wing receives the green light.
The ferry flight of aircraft number 617, slated to occur in the next few weeks, will be the culmination of the delivery of the entire new CC-130J Hercules fleet.