Saturday (August 23) is a milestone in the world of military aviation marking the 60th anniversary of the first flight of the Hercules C-130 at Burbank, California in 1954 and South Africa, through the SA Air Force’s 28 Squadron, is part of the worldwide Herc family.
Last year the AFB Waterkloof-based squadron celebrated the 50 anniversary of the Herc, better known in South Africa as Flossie. 28 Squadron operates C-130BZs and looks set to do so for another six years at least before new airlift capacity becomes reality for the airborne arm of the SA National Defence Force (SANDF).
To mark the 50th anniversary of service with the second oldest air force in the world, the BZs carrying the tail numbers 402 and 406 were adorned with special artwork “50 Years of Service” in painted in black on the front section of the fuselage.
The Herc is operated by 70 countries and South Africa ranks number five on the list of operators.
The first production C-130 gave 40 years of service. Known as “The First Lady” the aircraft first flew in 1955 and spent many years as a test aircraft before being converted into a gunship. It was retired to the USAF Armament Museum at Eglin AFB in Florida in 1955.
As of July this year Lockheed Martin has delivered 2 471 production models of the C-130. With more than 300 already delivered production of the latest model C-130J now exceeds total production of the C-130B (230 built) and the C-130A (231 built).
Probably one of the best remembered C-130 flights was the one undertaken by four Israeli Defence Force aircraft from Entebbe Airport in Uganda on July 4, 1976. They carried crack soldiers on a raid to rescue 90 hostages flown safely back to Israel.
The most number of people ever crammed into a C-130 was an amazing 452. This happened on the last flight out of Saigon before that city fell to North Vietnamese forces on April 30, 1975. The aircraft is designed to carry 90 paratroopers with their gear.
From 1957 to 1960 there was a dedicated C-130 aerial demonstration team called The Four Horsemen. Lockheed Martin maintains the team was the only one in the world ever to fly transport aircraft.
To mark the occasion Lockheed Martin invites members of the worldwide C-130 community to share their memories of the aircraft with photos and videos. These can be shared through Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Flickr, Linkedin, Google+ and YouTube. Stories will be collected on a Lockheed Martin sponsored website and shared with page viewers. To ensure stories are included on this site, the hashtag “#herc60” must be included within each post. Submissions also can be emailed to [email protected] and they will be manually posted on the anniversary site.
The C-130 has the longest, continuous military aircraft production run in history and is one of the top three longest, continuous aircraft production lines of any type.
“In its first six decades, the C-130 shaped aviation history, redefined industry standards and exhibited flexibility other aircraft have yet to match,” George Shultz, Lockheed Martin vice president and general manager, C-130 Programmes, said.
“The C-130 remains the world’s most proven airlifter because of its ability to adapt, remain relevant and deliver results no matter the mission. As we celebrate the Hercules, we want to thank the people who designed and now build, deliver, fly, maintain and sustain it. It’s their contributions that have kept the global C-130 fleet flying and will continue to do so for decades to come.”
The Hercules has been everywhere and is known for its ability to tackle any mission, anywhere, at any time. Aircrews have flown it to both poles, landed or airdropped military supplies to combat hot spots and performed countless relief operations around the globe. From the highest air strips in the Himalayas to landing on an aircraft carrier in the middle of the ocean, the C-130 regularly defies expectations.
Now retired 28 Squadron flight engineer Henk van Rooyen is credited as the man with the most hours aboard a C-130 in South Africa. When he hung up his flight suit with its Warrant Officer Class One insignia a few years ago his logbook showed 11 300 hours in the C-130.
Asked by defenceWeb what’s so special about the aircraft at the Squadron’s 70th anniversary function last year he said: “I can’t tell you! It’s something in your heart it’s in your blood. There’s no other aircraft like the C-130.I can’t explain what it does to you”.
His words are more or less echoed by any number of men who this author knows and who have flown and maintained the SAAF’s C-130BZs. As one they will tell you “the only aerie that can replace a C-130 is another C-130”.