Salvage work underway on Hercules C-130BZ 403


SA Air Force (SAAF) technical personnel are stripping usable components from C-130BZ (tail number 403) next to the runway at Goma Airport in Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) after it was damaged during an incident at the beginning of the year.

The 28 Squadron medium lift aircraft was left languishing askance with structural and engine damage after it hit a culvert a short distance from the runway in January.

Initial efforts at recovering usable parts from the four-engined transporter were hampered by United Nations bureaucracy. Additionally, the departure of a SAAF technical team was put on hold due to the coronavirus pandemic halting air transport and travel. Those obstacles no longer exist and social media postings show technicians stripping instrumentation and other usable parts.

African Defence Review (ADR) director Darren Olivier said salvaged usable parts will be brought back to the squadron at Air Force Base Waterkloof for testing. This will probably see the involvement of Denel, in one form or other, as Denel Aviation is, as far as can be ascertained, still an approved maintenance organisation (AMO) for the builders of Hercules aircraft, Lockheed Martin.

In a presentation to Parliament last month, Denel said it has an ongoing product supply support contract for the SAAF’s C-130s valid until November 2021 worth R350 million.

Olivier points out if the runway at Goma had larger run-off areas the aircraft could have been saved.

“Damage like this is uneconomical to repair, especially on the SAAF budget,” he added.

While the SAAF has not officially commented on the incident it is widely known 403 was due to return to South Africa from a logistics support mission to the central African country when a mechanical malfunction saw an engine catch fire. Sixty-seven passengers, including eight crew, were aboard and no-one was seriously injured.

Two weeks ago the SAAF told defenceWeb the Hercules “has not been categorised”, which indicates the 57-year-old has not been written off (Cat Five). South Africa’s large and generally well-informed military aviation enthusiasts’ community feels the SAAF, which this year marks its centenary, will never see 403 back as an airworthy asset.