920th Rescue Wing HC-130J Combat King II Aircraft Conducts Search-and-Rescue Demo at National Salute to America’s Heroes Air and Sea Show

By  //  June 9, 2021

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Observers on the beach watch as a 920th Rescue Wing HC-130J Combat King II aircraft and two HH-60G Pave Hawk helicopter demonstrate a helicopter air-to-air refuel during the 2021 National Salute to America’s Heroes Air and Sea Show May 29, 2021. (U.S. Air Force photo by Master Sgt. Kelly Goonan)

BREVARD COUNTY, FLORIDA – Three maintainers from the 720th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron worked overnight to ensure an aircraft was ready to perform when an issue arose the day before a performance in the National Salute to America’s Heroes Air and Sea Show over Memorial Day weekend.

The 39th and 301st Rescue Squadrons were scheduled to fly one HC-130J Combat King II and two HH-60 Pave Hawks and provide a full combat search and rescue demonstration during the air show.

On Friday, following the rehearsal flight, the HC-130J’s performance in the show was in jeopardy due to an indicator light that went off.

A 920th Rescue Wing HC-130J Combat King II aircraft and two HH-60G Pave Hawk helicopters demonstrate a helicopter air-to-air refuel during the 2021 National Salute to America’s Heroes Air and Sea Show May 29, 2021. (U.S. Air Force photo by Master Sgt. Kelly Goonan)

The fire loop indication failed, prompting the only maintenance Airmen to expeditiously begin troubleshooting the problem. The issue stemmed from the fire handle. The Auxiliary Power Unit (APU) fire control switch malfunctioned, making the aircraft inoperable due to safety concerns.

“If there were to be an in-flight emergency where engines two, three or four caught fire, there would be no way to extinguish it if this were a true malfunction,” said Staff Sgt. Vanessa Waszkiewicz, 720th AMXS crew chief. “This is a hard show stopper.”

The maintenance team of two crew chiefs and one electrician went to work to fix the problem with minimal tools and resources available. Simultaneously they coordinated with the team back at Patrick Space Force Base to obtain the parts and equipment, which arrived just after midnight.

A 920th Rescue Wing HC-130J Combat King II and two HH-60G Pave Hawk helicopters demonstrate a helicopter air-to-air refuel during the 2021 National Salute to America’s Heroes Air and Sea Show May 29, 2021. (U.S. Air Force photo by Master Sgt. Kelly Goonan)

The members of the 720th AMXS and 920th MXS worked throughout the night to install, test and return the aircraft to its full mission capability. Under normal circumstances at home station, with parts available and five technical experts, this issue would have been resolved in as little two hours.

“It’s one thing to do this on the flight line with all the required equipment and help on hand, but with only three of us and limited parts, we had to make it work,” said Tech. Sgt. Justin Realmuto, 720th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron electrician. “By no means are we specialized in each other’s jobs, but we have the basic knowledge to assist and get the job done.”

The HC-130J Combat King II was returned to fully mission ready just two hours before their performance in the air show.

A 920th Rescue Wing HH-60G Pave Hawk helicopter hoists pararescuemen during a combat search-and-rescue demonstration at the 2021 National Salute to America’s Heroes Air and Sea Show May 29, 2021. (U.S. Air Force photo by Master Sgt. Kelly Goonan)

“Our team of Airmen demonstrated how adaptable they are to dynamic situations. They assessed the situation, formulated a plan and executed,” Maj. Tim Gaydosh, 720th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron commander said. “This is the type of multifaceted team that achieves success regardless of their operation environment.”