In safe hands with the Portuguese men of yore…
An African C-130 Hercules could be completely rebuilt in Portugal. David Oliver looks at the company behind the project.
There are few extant aerospace companies that can trace their history back to World War I. However, one that has survived and flourished in the 21st century is the Portuguese company OGMA, which was originally founded as part of the reorganisation of the Portuguese Army’s Aeronautic Service in June 29, 1918.
The company is based at Alverca, on the outskirts of Lisbon, on the shore of the Tagus River. A military air base had been built there in 1918 that later served as the first international airport in Portugal until Lisbon Portela Airport opened in 1942.
OGMA has 140,000sqm of covered facilities, including 10 maintenance hangars, aerostructure manufacturing facilities, a large engine overhaul shop and a new paint hangar that was opened in July 2016.
It has the use of a 3,000-metre runway and control tower that are operated by the Portuguese Air Force for around-the-clock operations.
A new era started in 2003 when the Portuguese Government took a decision to privatise the company while retaining 35% of the shares. Privatisation saw the Brazilian company, Embraer, owning the remaining 65% of the company share capital.
OGMA is an established authorised maintenance centre for several original equipment manufacturers (OEMs), including Lockheed Martin, Airbus, and Rolls-Royce.
As a service provider in the aircraft maintenance, repair and overhaul (MRO) field, OGMA holds extensive experience in defence aviation. This includes intermediate and heavy maintenance, engine and component maintenance, avionics upgrades, major structural repairs, fieldwork teams, aircraft recovery, and airworthiness management (CAMO)
OGMA has more than 35 years of continuous experience with the C-130/L-100 Hercules aircraft and has been a fully authorised Lockheed Martin Service Centre for the type since 1982.
The Alverca facility has up to 12 maintenance bays available and has carried out more than 600 C-130A/B/H Hercules aircraft inspections to date. Programmed depot maintenance (PDM) and isochronal (ISO) checks, which involve the examination and maintenance of the entire airframe to increase the overall performance and safety, are carried out in accordance with the United States Air Force technical order (TO) system.
Major structural repairs include wing refurbishment/replacement and OGMA has an in-house capability for overhauling the T56/501D turboprop engine and the C-130J’s Rolls-Royce AE 2100D3. It also carries out the repair, overhaul, modification, upgrade and testing of the Hercules Hamilton Sundstrand 54H60 series propellers and Goodrich landing gear.
The company’s aerostructure division also manufactures C-130J engine nacelle doors and wing trailing edge panels
OGMA’s defence customer portfolio comprises 24 air forces worldwide, many of them C-130 operators. One of its largest customers is the French Force, whose C-130H fleet is heavily engaged in operations in Mali.
OGMA also has a fieldwork team deployed to France’s Base Aérienne 188 in Djibouti, which carries out deep maintenance, including the dynamic and mechanical testing of the main rotor head of the French Air Force and Army SA330 Puma helicopters.
The company has C-130 MRO contracts with no less than seven African air forces –Angola, Cameroon, the Central African Republic, Chad, Gabon, Niger and Nigeria.
The Cameroon Air Force’s three C-130H aircraft, which play a pivotal role in the country’s military operations against Boko Haram under Operation Emergence 4, are all maintained by OGMA. The air force also contracts former Portuguese Air Force Hercules pilot instructors.
A Gabon Air Force C-130H (TC-KKC) has recently returned to the country after completing a C-check in Portugal. It is one of two Hercules belonging to the Gabon Air Force and the second aircraft has presented OGMA with one of its most demanding challenges to date.
The 1976-built L100-20 aircraft (TR-KKB) is currently at Alverca following its recovery from the African state. It had not flown for about eight years before it was towed by road from Libreville Airport to the Port of Owendo to be transported by ship, arriving in Portugal on December 24 2015. It has since been subjected to an in-depth inspection and disassembled, including the removal it its wings and tail.
OGMA’s director of defence maintenance, Jorge Palma, said the work involved to get the aircraft airworthy will include the installation of new avionics and a glass cockpit, as well as the replacement of several structural parts, including outer wing-caps and the six metre (19.7ft)-longerons, to which the skin is fastened at the rear of the aircraft. These need to be replaced one at a time, said Palma, “otherwise the aircraft would just fall apart”.
The company expects the modifications, which will include the manufacture of several new components, to take about 12 months to complete. The customer has been advised of the cost of the work required and a final decision on the fate of the aircraft is expected in the near future.