Before the latest F-15 crash (see above), Lt. Gen. Gary North said on a visit to one forward location in Southwest Asia that the Air Force is “flying our planes into extinction.” Air Force journalist SSgt. Phillip Butterfield took note and reports on the airmen who maintain “some of the oldest C-130 aircraft in the Air Force inventory.” TSgt. James Vehlies, a deployed maintainer, says: “We have a lot of electrical problems and cabin pressure problems. Old wires rub together and short out causing system malfunctions and component failures.” And, because of years of modifications and changing out of parts, some equipment mounting points no longer permit parts to fit “like they should,” says crew chief SSgt. Aaron Huffmaster. Trying to replace a torque tube, he found that the new part wouldn’t fit in holes distorted by frequent replacements. Superintendent MSgt. Garcia Brown says it’s the hard work of maintainers that is keeping the mission effectiveness rate up.
U.S. Air Force F-35s and F-22s regularly deploy deep into the Pacific region from Alaska, Utah, and Hawaii. In the future, though, the head of U.S. Indo-Pacific Command would like to see the Air Force permanently station fifth-generation aircraft west of the international date line—closer to China.