The Herc May Not Be Comfortable or Fast, But The Airlifter Has Done It All- and Well Enough to Stick Around
The Lockheed C-130 Hercules has been called “the most remarkable plane ever produced.” And as a testament to its timelessness and unparalleled capabilities the C-130 is still in production so many years later. For generations now from Vietnam to Iraq, Hercules aircraft have proven to be the critical link in delivering troops and equipment right into the heart of the combat zone.
A Veteran Aircraft
Many American and allied soldiers, marines, & airmen have depended on C-130 airdrop and airland operations where C-130 crews have dropped critical supplies or landed at fields under hostile fire delivering rations and ammunition, while taking out the wounded all in an effort to sustain the fight against our nation’s enemies from Vietnam to Iraq & Afghanistan. It brought countless men and women home to their families and lifted the fallen venerably to their final resting place.
A Symbol of Hope
A symbol of hope, the C-130 “has brought food to the hungry, relief to victims of natural disasters and hope to remote corners of the earth.” It has been adopted by over 60 countries and has been produced in over 70 commercial and military versions. The Hercules worldwide fleet has over 19 million flight hours and an impressive safety record. It is the workhorse of the jet age causing those familiar with its operation to refer to it as, “a one plane air force.”
The US Air Force outlined the original requirements for a new transport aircraft in 1951, detailing a platform that was a mix of “truck, Jeep, and airplane.” What the service needed was an aircraft capable of “hauling large bulky equipment, including artillery pieces and tanks, over long distances. It had to land in tight spaces, slow to 125 knots for paratroop drops, and fly, if need be, with one engine. What the Air Force wanted, in other words, was a tough, versatile heavylifter with plenty of “trunk” space,” and Lockheed delivered. Famed Lockheed aerospace engineer Kelly Johnson called the Hercules, “the ugliest airplane” he’s ever seen.
That Maiden Flight
The first flight of the YC-130A prototype was on 23 Aug 1954 at Burbank, CA. After a 61 minute maiden flight the aircraft landed at Edwards Air Force Base where it completed its basic flight testing program. The C-130 assembly line was located at the Lockheed Georgia/Dobbins Air Force Base complex, which today houses production facilities for the C-130J.
First Production Test Flights
The first production C-130A broke terra firma at Dobbins Air Force Base on 7 April 1955 on its premiere flight. The C-130A only used 800 feet of runway for its takeoff roll. The flight lasted an hour and seven minutes and the landing was executed with reverse thrust to a stop, using only 2000 feet of runway. The C-130 successfully completed that flight commencing a new era in tactical airlift that has lasted to our present day.