KEESLER AFB, Miss. --- If smoke starts filling up a C-130J Super Hercules aircraft, the aircrew reach for their anti-smoke goggles. For more than 20 years the ASGs have been a basic four-part system, until now.
With innovation, the new ASGs are now a three-part system. The suspension frame itself is still made the same with the nape pad attached, while the goggles and oxygen mask portion have been upgraded.
“The ones that we are replacing have the same basic frame, but the goggles and the oxygen mask are two separate pieces,” said Tech. Sgt. Ronald Patton, 403rd Operation Support Squadron aircrew flight equipment craftsman. “Before, you would need to put the oxygen mask over your mouth and nose, then pull the frame up and place the nape pad at the back of your head. Once that was in place you would put the goggles on and pull the straps on both sides to tighten them.”
The way the new ASGs work is still the same concept, except now the goggles and oxygen mask are one piece, so when you place the oxygen mask over your nose and mouth, the goggles are put on at the exact same time, saving time and making them quicker to put on and operate.
“The new masks are made similar to ones that firefighters use,” said Master Sgt. Ray Reynolds, 403rd OSS aircrew flight equipment supervisor. “The older goggles had a narrower field of view, while the new ones allow the aircrew to be able to use their peripheral vision.”
As a part of the AFE duties, they are required to make sure the equipment operates the way it is supposed to, be able to fix the equipment and replace any parts as needed.
Patton said that when the new ASGs came in, the manufacturer sent a ‘fix’ in with the mask to ensure they operated as designed. This ‘fix’ was a single screw that needed to be replaced on the front of the mask.
“Every part on the ASG system is replaceable, which helps to make sure they last,” Reynolds said. “Looking at the order of parts that could be damaged from easiest to hardest. The first thing is the hose, the second thing being the communication cord and the third is the microphone and then onto the remaining parts.”
AFE technicians are also required to test the pull disconnect on the air hoses to ensure that they will not come unattached from the oxygen hose on the aircraft too easily. This pull test requires a minimum of 12 pounds to a maximum of 20 pounds of pull before the hose on the mask would release, ensuring that there is some resistance before it disconnects.
If the disconnect is not between the 12 to 20 pounds of pull, then they have to fix the connector to correct the amount of pressure to meet the requirement, Patton said.
“We are also required to conduct pre-flight, post-flight, periodic maintenance, 30-day and 120-day inspections on the ASGs,” Patton said.
The 30-day inspections consists of basic checks. A visual examination is conducted and they look for cuts, tears, abrasions, discolorations, rust, anything other than normal, looking for anything that is obviously defective. A cleaning is done and the components are tested to ensure they work.
The 120-day inspection is the same inspection, but with a full break down of all of the components and a deep clean, checking the integrity of the components that you cannot see, Reynolds said.
“It is not that the old ASGs were replaced because they were faulty, they worked exactly as they were designed to. It seems like they just needed to improve on the integrity of the system itself,” Patton said. “Will it operate better under stressful situations, will it be easier to repair if it does break, does it have as many subcomponents that can break, does the aircrew member find it easier to don, and can the aircrew operate better in the environment, were questions that they asked when designing the new system.”
To improve the ASG system, they took a mask similar to a firefighter’s mask and the quick don suspension frame and made it one system, then they added the communications portion, Reynolds said.
“So they are doing something right, because if they hadn’t created this one, the ones that we have still work. I have been in this career field for more than 30 years and this is only the third version that I have seen,” Reynolds said.
“While the older ASG masks still work and some are still located on our C-130J aircraft, we are working to replace them on all of the aircraft” Patton said. “We currently have six sets in service and have replaced more than half of the 815th Airlift Squadron’s ASGs with a new quick don system and we expect to have them all of our aircraft by the middle of August, after the current inspection cycles are complete.”