C-130 airplane was testing a decontamination system before it was hauled through Concord

  • The C-130 was seen going through downtown Concord on Nov. 18. The Lockheed C-130 Hercules, stretching 94 feet and weighing 87,000 pounds, slowed traffic and drew curiosity. Courtesy

  • The C-130 fuselage is shown in Hopkinton en route to I-89 North on Nov. 18. Buzz Whalen

Monitor staff
Published: 12/19/2020 5:33:47 PM

The huge military aircraft that was trucked through Concord last month had been brought to Pease International Airport to test a decontamination system made by a firm that also cleans ambulances.

The demonstration was run here partly because a nearby company was able to provide a temporary hangar big enough to enclose the plane, a C-130 transport.

And that’s about all we’re going to know until the military allows the contractors to say more.

As for the plane itself, its engines were removed, and the fuselage and wings were trucked down to North Carolina, where they are being destroyed.

“We’re cutting it up with the same saws that the fire department uses to cut open your car,” said Joe Freudcoor of Legacy Aerospace in Fletcher, N.C., a company that specializes in dealing with older military aircraft.

The test involved the Joint Biological Agent Decontamination System or JBADS, made by AeroClave, a Florida company, the Marine Corps said in a statement Thursday.

“The JBADS provides the capability to decontaminate the interior and exterior of aircraft after contamination with biological agents. … No biological agents or simulants were used for this demonstration,” says the statement.

Steve Richards, JBADS program manager for AeroClave, declined to give more details beyond pointing to information on the company’s website.

According to the company timeline, AeroClave has been developing systems for decontaminating airplanes since 2006. JBADS dates back to 2011 and has been tested many times on C-130 aircraft. The C-130 is a four-engine turboprop that the U.S. military has used to transport troops and equipment for half a century.

While Richards said he couldn’t talk about the technology used by JBADS, he was happy to talk about automated “no-touch” systems to decontaminate ambulances between trips, a business that has become more prominent with concern about the SARS-CoV2 virus lingering in the air and on surfaces.

“In non-technical terms it does a fogging inside the area where the patient is,” he said. “It kills viruses and bacteria.”

Richards said the system used by some ambulance services in New Hampshire.

The local saga of the Lockheed C-130 Hercules started Nov. 18 when the plane’s fuselage – all 94 feet of it, weighing 87,000 pounds – was trucked down South Main Street in Concord and into Hopkinton during the middle of the day, slowing traffic and generating a slew of pictures posted on social media.

Because it was 15 feet wide and 16 feet tall, the load couldn’t fit under all interstate bridges which is why it was using comparatively small roads.

According to the serial number, this plane was built in 1974 and decommissioned last year. A report by the Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association says it was flown into the Frederick, Maryland, Municipal Airport in September 2019, where its engines and propellers were removed and shipped to an Air Force depot. The wings and stabilizers were taken off and it was driven to nearby Fort Detrick in March, where it was to have been “reassembled and used to test equipment and procedures.”

At some point last year it was trucked from Maryland up to Pease – not flown here, as one eye-witness account related in a previous Monitor story said. There it was put inside a huge temporary hangar built by Rubb Building Systems of Sanford, Maine, for the decontamination test.

Rubb specializes in “fabric tension” structures made of various types of synthetic fabrics stretched over metal frames of various truss designs. They are used for buildings that need a large roofspan without supporting pillars, ranging from storage sheds to airplane hangers and, in one case, a nuclear waste recycling facility.

It appears that the decontamination test was done at Pease partly because Rubb is just over the border in Maine and partly because there was room at Pease, which as an Air Force facility doesn’t think twice about the arrival of large military aircraft.

(David Brooks can be reached at 369-3313 or dbrooks@cmonitor.com or on Twitter @GraniteGeek.)
David Brooks bio photo

David Brooks is a reporter and the writer of the sci/tech column Granite Geek and blog granitegeek.org, as well as moderator of Science Cafe Concord events. After obtaining a bachelor’s degree in mathematics he became a newspaperman, working in Virginia and Tennessee before spending 28 years at the Nashua Telegraph . He joined the Monitor in 2015.

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