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An "A" model C-130 Hercules on display at Dyess AFB, Abilene, TX
     This Saturday, August 23, 2014 is a special day for the C-130 Hercules. Sixty years ago on this date was the first flight of what would become one of the world's most successful aircraft.

       More below the Orange Omnilepticon.

  I'll let the plaques tell the story. Here's the capsule history of the Hercules:

 And here's the history of this particular plane, proud ancestor of many to follow:
     The wikipedia entry for the C-130 has more, including pictures of the YC-130 prototypes that lacked the distinctive nose radome.

       Here's a couple of more photos of "City of Ardmore" showing the classic Hercules physique: 4 turboprop engines, landing gear suited for rough fields, a cockpit with a lot of glass, an upswept body at the rear incorporating a ramp/door combination for quick loading, unloading, and air drops…

   Here's a picture of a later model Hercules also on display at Dyess AFB in Abilene, TX. While the basic design is still the same, note the larger engines, the four-bladed props, and the larger external fuel tanks that have been moved inboard between the engines.
     The Hercules is still in production today. While there are transports that can carry heavier loads and fly faster, none have managed to replace the Herk at what it does. As the plaque up top notes, the Hercules has proven to be remarkably flexible and has been continually updated over the decades. When Lockheed developed the original design, they managed to find a balance of features and performance that have remained viable over time. According to Lockheed Martin, over half of the Herks built are still flying, and they can be found around the world. Here's the Lockheed-Martin C-130 anniversary website, and a special tribute section.

        A FOX News story on the anniversary includes a remarkable story of a feat pulled off by the last Hercules out of Saigon - and of one of the people it carried. (Video at the link)

ATLANTA –  Tim Nguyen regards the C-130 “Hercules” as a “good friend.” The 60-year-old military aircraft has been the focus of his professional career, and quite possibly saved his life.

During the 1975 Fall of Saigon, Nguyen -- then serving in the South Vietnamese air force -- escaped on the last C-130 out of Vietnam. During a lull in enemy fire, he emerged from a bunker at Tan Son Nhut Air Base to see the last flyable C-130 stopping and going on the taxiway.

The aircraft’s rear ramp was still open, apparently weighed down by the crowd of people standing on it.

“Every time (the pilot) jammed on the brake, it pushed the passengers forward,” Nguyen recalled. “It created more space in the back… So, I jumped in. Everybody jumped in. And a few minutes after that, the ramp door closed and we taxied out and departed.”

The plane landed safely at a U.S. air base in Thailand. Nguyen said the American soldiers there were visibly surprised as they watched 452 people disembark from a single plane.

emphasis added

        The "J" model Hercules is the current stock version being served up by Lockheed Martin. Here's a couple of pictures of a C-130J shooting touch and goes at Dyess AFB. Notice the extended fuselage and the six-bladed props.

   While the Hercules is well known for its military applications, they're also often employed in rescue and relief operations, and firefighting. They also play an important role in scientific research. If you know anyone who has been engaged in climate research in Greenland or in Antarctica, chances are they've flown on planes of the world's most exclusive ski club, the 109th Airlift Wing of the New York Air National Guard, out of Scotia, NY. Here's the trailer for a documentary on their work.

http://youtu.be/...

       Early on, there were doubters.

It was the first flight of the C-130 Hercules prototype. The bulky, propeller-driven aircraft looked behind its time in an era when sleek jet planes were the new thing in aviation. No one imagined the many uses and longevity the plane would have.

Famed Lockheed designer Kelly Johnson was one skeptic. He predicted that only 100 C-130s would be built. As of this year, the total production number is about 2,500, according to Lockheed Martin. The company was Lockheed when the C-130 first flew and later merged with Martin.

The C-130 is still being produced today, as it has been from the start, at the company’s plant in Marietta. The company says it has been continuously produced longer than any aircraft in military history. It is commonly referred to as the “workhorse” of the Air Force.

It looks like C-130s will be flying for some time to come. Happy Anniversary!
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