Some interesting technical detective work, and a good example of how seemingly trivial design factors (in this case, the choice of material for a rivet) can have very big effects in aviation.
BILOXI, Miss. (Tribune News Service) — For years, a strange problem with the U.S. Air Force’s C-130 aircraft had pilots and crews reporting sickness, discomfort and, in some cases, excruciating pain after routine flight missions. The phenomenon remained a mystery until February, when a handful of reservists at Keesler Air Force Base took the initiative to solve the mystery. They made a tiny discovery that’s affecting airplanes worldwide.
The problem was with the pressurization system on the C-130 Hercules — the longest-produced and perhaps most-popular aircraft in military history. The versatile airplane serves as an attack gunship, a troop transport, a surveillance plane and many other roles.
Keesler’s famed Hurricane Hunters fly the C-130J for weather reconnaissance.
In February, maintenance technicians from the 403rd Wing began a hunt for a solution to the problem. At times, the C-130s’ pressurization systems could not be controlled manually or automatically. Cabins would over-pressurize at certain altitudes, causing the physiological problems.