Author & photographer:  Ian French

The Fuerza Aérea Colombiana has its central maintenance depot located at the Major Justino Mariño Cuesto air base at Madrid in central Colombia.  The Air Force is structured into various commands and the facilities at Madrid form Comando Aéreo de Mantenimiento (CAMAN).

As well as the maintenance unit there is also an active transport squadron: Escuadrón de Transporte 911 which belongs to Grupo de Transporte Aéreo 91 and operates the Casa 212-300 Aviocar.

The airfield was established in 1924 and was the home of the Escuela Militar de Aviación until it moved to Cali in 1933.  It wasn’t until the 1970s that the maintenance command located here.  Approximately 900 people work on the base today.  The base performs maintenance and upgrade work on the following types:

Bell UH-1H

Casa 212

Cessna 208

CIAC T-90 Calima

Drones & UAVs

Embraer Tucano

IAI Arava

Lockheed C-130 Hercules

The base works closely with industry and is at the forefront of technological advancement in Colombia.  There is a composites workshop and this houses the country’s largest curing oven.  Corporación de la Industria Aeronáutica Colombiana SA (CIAC) is also present at Madrid and works with the Air Force on various aircraft programmes.  CIAC designed and built the T-90 Calima (a variation of the Lancair Legacy FG) utilising composite materials based upon locally produced corn fibre.  The result is a very strong and light material ideal for aircraft manufacture.  The T-90 is the key basic trainer for the Colombian Air Force.

The Air Force’s fleet of 14 Embraer T-27 Tucano advanced trainers are being updated with new Cobham digital avionics, Collins nav/comms systems, new wings and landing gear supplied by Embraer.  The wings are wired for weapons carriage enabling the aircraft to be used for weapons training and a limited light attack role.  The last two aircraft are currently at Madrid and will be delivered back to the Air Force by the end of the year.  The modification programme takes approximately six months and utilises a team of 30 personnel.

Another current development programme is the conversion of the Bell UH-1H Huey to the UH-1H-II variant.  This involves a significant programme to install digital avionics and to modify the airframe and upgrade the engine and transmission.  Nine months are required for the conversion.

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The base also performs a seven-month programmed depot maintenance (PDM) on the Lockheed C-130B/H Hercules transport fleet.  Each aircraft goes through PDM every six years and it takes nine months for a 43 personnel team to complete the programme.

Regular maintenance is performed on the Casa 212, the Cessna 208 and the Bell UH-1H.  Currently the Casa 212s are being fitted with re-bladed propellers.

CAMAN personnel are deployed to other bases where there are issues with aircraft which cannot reach Madrid.

Aviation Press Limited would like to thank Captain Alvarado Puentes Ernesto Javier and Second Lieutenant Paula Yulixa Beltran Hernandez for hosting our visit and Major Monica Barrero of the Fuerza Aérea Colombiana Press Office, Paolo Di Biagio and Mark Forest for their assistance in arranging the visit.

Aviation Press Limited owns the copyrights to this article & associated photographs.