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At Yokota Air Base, keeping a C-130J clean can be a Herculean task

U.S. Air Force C-130J Super Hercules’ prepare to take off from Dyess Air Force Base, Texas, May 4, 2018. (Airman 1st Class Mercedes Porter/U.S. Air Force)

Japanese contractors and members of the Air Force’s 374th Maintenance Squadron are no strangers to getting their feet wet.

With 14 C130-J Super Hercules transport planes assigned to Yokota, along with UH-1 helicopters, CV-22 Ospreys and other aircraft, the wash rack can be a busy place.

Keeping those Super Hercules clean is a 1½-daylong job. Starting in the early morning hours, mid-shift airmen prepare the massive aircraft for its cleanup. The maintainers responsible for prepping the birds said safety is their first priority.

They lower the wing flaps, remove access panels and disconnect the batteries, among other precautions.

“We have to deactivate certain systems to prevent shock and crush hazards to make the aircraft safe to wash,” Staff Sgt. Alexander Young said.

The wash rack is a job for beginners — one where less-experienced airmen get their feet wet.

“Actually, doing the wash is one of the worst jobs,” Young said.

It’s an unpleasant task because it means staying soaked to the bone for most of the day, he added.

At Yokota, however, local contractor Yamagashi Reform Corp. has been washing aircraft for the past four years.

With a crew of eight working on a Super Hercules — which is more than 112 feet long and 38 feet tall with a 132-foot wingspan — wetting, soaping, scrubbing and rinsing takes about eight hours, said Yamagashi project manager Mariko Kawadai.

Sugi Yama, a 10-year Yamagashi employee, said he likes his job.

“I enjoy seeing it change in front of me,” he said, comparing what he does to washing a car. “It’s the same; one is big, and one is small, but my car doesn’t get inspected after.”

Once the contractors are done, the airmen take over again. The process concludes with an inspection, lubrication and anti-corrosion treatment.

The final details complete, the C-130 returns to the flight line, ready to get dirty again in support of the wing’s tactical airlift mission throughout the Indo-Pacific region.


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