Fat Albert C-130 Used To Blast Off On Rocket Assisted Takeoffs

The U.S. Marine Corps C-130 Hercules, "Fat Albert," assigned to the U.S. Navy “Blue Angels” flight demonstration team, uses Jet Assisted Take Off (JATO) bottles during the 2005 Blue Angel Homecoming show. Fat Albert kicks-off each show with an assisted takeoff, demonstrating the C-130’s ability to get airborne in minimal time and distance, simulating conditions in hostile environments and on short, unprepared runways. The homecoming air show signifies the final performance of the season for the “Blue Angels”, which is held at their homebase of Naval Air Station Pensacola, Fla.

Fat Albert is a unique aircraft.  Aircraft like the C-27, C-130s and C-17s will occasionally perform routines at airshows. Fat Albert is the only large transport aircraft on a service-level performance team in the world.

For the uninitiated, Fat Albert is a C-130T used to transport gear and equipment for the Blue Angels.  The crew is comprised of three marine officers and five enlisted crew members.  Each crew member on Fat Albert is considered part of the Blue Angels team.  They wear the same uniform as the rest of the performance team that flies the F/A-18 Hornet.

While Fat Albert will occasionally perform short field takeoffs and assault landings before the show, its routine is very limited from what it used to do. From 1975 until 2009, Fat Albert used to fly a rocket-assisted takeoff prior to the departure of the main Blue Angels show.  The C-130T was specially equipped with 8 JATO rocket cylinders.  Each rocket was comprised of solid fuel and added about 1,000 lbs of thrust to the C-130.  With 8,000 lbs of extra thrust on the aircraft, the C-130 became airborne in no time.  It then commenced a very spectacular 45 degree nose-high climb to altitude. For reference, typical C-130s climb at around 10-15 degrees climb angles on a normal departure.

Although the JATO takeoffs were impressive, the supply of Vietnam war-era rockets dried up. Fat Albert flew its last JATO takeoff at Pensacola back in 2009. The odds of seeing this amazing departure profile ever again are slim to none.

Even without the rockets, Fat Albert still soldiers on today.  The C-130 was recently refurbished.  It was grounded earlier this year after a crash of a similar KC-130T model.  Fat Albert passed inspection and is now back flying with the team. This video was filmed by Kevin Slay and originally posted on YouTube.