The head of Air Mobility Command recently told Military.com that one part in particular is especially difficult to find due to the fact that it’s no longer being manufactured.
“The mechanism is a screw-type mechanism that allows [the nose of the aircraft] to basically spin down and spin back up,” said AMC commander Gen. Carlton Everhart II in an interview. “What we found out, though, is there’s nobody out there manufacturing these anymore.”
As of July 18, all C-5M operations were ceased when two aircrafts experienced malfunctions with their nose-gears overseas. Similar incidents occurred on May 22 and again on July 15 at Naval Station Rota in Spain.
Everhart also noted that the nose-wheel had been unable to extend properly. The nose wheel is essential, as it enables the landing gear to move up and down. A malfunction mid-flight could cripple an aircraft.
“We found out it was a mechanism in the nose-wheel that was being torn down by just heavy use,” he said.
While hi-lo screws have a reduced minor diameter and therefore displace less material and minimize stress, the issues with the nose-gear were the ball screws, which work together to alter the length of the equipment.
“If a single ball screw drive assembly fails and causes binding, the gear cannot operate and will stall the extension or retraction process,” said AMC spokesman Col. Chris Karns.
While commercial jets cruise at 35,000 feet, smaller jets fly even higher and don’t have to deal with other air traffic, often making trips faster. That being said, they still require proper parts and consistent maintenance.
“Inspection criteria for this specific issue will allow for malfunctioning single ball screw-drive assemblies to be identified, repaired and replaced and will enable AMC to mitigate potential shortages that could impact C-5M readiness,” said Karns in an email. “Existing bench stock will be used for part replacements in order to keep aircraft mission ready.”
Approximately 70% of all manufacturers have a compressed air system, and Karns said that all faulty parts will now be sent to Ogden Air Logistics Complex in Utah. Officials at Hill Air Force Base “will perform all depot-level maintenance actions on screw-drive assemblies and refurbish them.”
Ultimately, officials emphasized that the main priority is to keep the aircrews safe.
Everhart said about the modified C-5, “With aging platforms, because you have an aircraft that’s 34 years old right now, there are going to be moments of discovery,” Everhart said of the modified C-5. “A lot of times, I worry about an airplane like a KC-135 that’s almost 60 years old. What is the next moment of discovery I could have that could ground a whole fleet? It’s kind of a wake-up call.”
To prevent a deadly aviation disaster from occurring in the future, Everhart said that it will be necessary to revitalize the nation’s aging military aircraft as soon as possible. Hopefully, this proactive outlook will help keep American pilots safe.