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Wardrip earns top USAF safety award

Senior Master Sgt. John Wardrip (center left), propulsion element supervisor with the Kentucky Air National Guard's 123rd Maintenance Squadron, received the Air Force Chief of Safety Aviation Maintenance Safety Award for 2016. Standing with him are Airmen from the propulsion element, whom Wardrip credited with making the award possible through their expertise and dedication. (U.S. Air National Guard photo by Tech. Sgt. Vicky Spesard)

Senior Master Sgt. John Wardrip (center left), propulsion element supervisor with the Kentucky Air National Guard's 123rd Maintenance Squadron, received the Air Force Chief of Safety Aviation Maintenance Safety Award for 2016. Standing with him are Airmen from the propulsion element, whom Wardrip credited with making the award possible through their expertise and dedication. (U.S. Air National Guard photo by Tech. Sgt. Vicky Spesard)

LOUISVILLE, Ky. -- Senior Master Sgt. John Wardrip, Propulsion Element supervisor with the Kentucky Air Guard’s 123rd Maintenance Squadron, has earned the Air Force Chief of Safety Aviation Maintenance Safety Award for 2016.

Wardrip was recognized for identifying multiple failed components within the propeller assembly of a C-130 from the 123rd Airlift Wing here, resulting from improper maintenance completed at the depot level. Further investigation found that the issue affected 315 U.S. Air Force C-130s worldwide.

The search for the failed components began with an in-flight emergency that could have resulted in substantial loss of life, officials said.

While on a routine flight on July 15, 2015, a Kentucky Air Guard C-130H began vibrating so violently that crewmembers could not read the instruments or engine gauges.

In addition, the noise from the vibration prevented crewmembers from talking to one another through the in-flight communications system. With extraordinary effort, the crew was able to implement corrective action and execute an engine-out landing that saved the lives of all six crewmembers.

As a result of the incident, Wardrip and his team of propulsion mechanics conducted a safety investigation of the aircraft’s propeller system, revealing the cause of the near-fatal mishap. That information was shared with engineers who provide depot-level maintenance on C-130 aircraft at Robbins Air Force Base, Georgia.

“When we started our inspection, we initially thought that this issue might be a one-time event because that particular aircraft had just undergone a routine inspection with no issues,” Wardrip explained. “But because the previous inspection didn’t reveal anything, we started taking a closer look at the propeller system and all the other propellers that were in our shop at that time.

“This was not something I accomplished alone. It was through the efforts of each member in this shop that the problem was discovered in other C-130s here and properly investigated. With the help of depot engineers at Robbins, the failures were resolved.”

Resolving the issue, however, wasn’t enough for Wardrip and his team. He insisted that the information they discovered and the risk level associated with the failed components be shared with the other military branches using this type of propeller system.

“The impact of this ranged pretty wide,” said Maj. Jerry Zollman, commander of the 123rd Maintenance Squadron. “Across all branches of the services, anyone who flies the C-130 or uses that propeller system has benefited from the work and the risk mitigation that Senior Master Sgt. Wardrip and has team have done.

“We have a lot of respect for, and are very proud of, our guys, who were able to contribute to this significant event and to provide corrective action.

“It’s pretty awesome to have a Non-Commissioned Officer here whose technical expertise and opinion is valued at the highest level,” continued Zollman. “They are one of the busiest sections in my squadron with one of the heaviest workloads. But if you ask Senior Master Sgt. Wardrip and his guys about what they did, they would just say they’re doing their job.”