Plane of the Week: Lockheed C-130 Hercules

Plane of the Week: Lockheed C-130 Hercules

By on Aug 11th 2017

The C-130's versatility is second to none.

The C-130 Hercules is considered one of history's most important aircraft.

It has landed on high air-strips in the Himalaya Mountains, as well as those in the middle of the ocean on ships. Harsh environments are no stranger to this aircraft as it's usually the first plane landing on unfriendly runways to provide relief in the wake of natural disasters. It has been used for aerial firefighting, search and rescue, aerial refueling, hurricane hunting, and combat delivery.

Lockheed Martin nicknamed the C-130 "Hercules" after the mythological hero known for his courage and strength. More than 60 countries operate the C-130 and it's been used to set 54 world records. The plane has also accumulated over 1 million hours flying.

You won't find the Hercules starring in an air show, and it doesn't have the sleek body of a fighter jet. However, the plane makes up for it through adaptability and hardiness.

Origin of the Hercules

It all started during the Korean War when planes used in World War II were not sufficient in modern warfare--none of the planes used at that time were capable of airlifting troops over generally short distances.

Dr. Willis M. Hawkins proposed manufacturing the C-130 to solve this problem. He based the design off a railroad boxcar and its reflected in the plane's large size and boxy body. Lockheed documented that Dr. Hawkins determined the plane's cabin size by choosing the largest piece of equipment they had, an M551 Sheridan Tank, and drew a circle around it.

Initially, Lockheed executives opposed the design; however, Dr. Hawkins convinced them to enter it into a competition for a military contract and it won. The original design was issued by the Air Force in 1951, and it is astonishingly still in production. Engineers altered the design and made necessary changes throughout different model years. Better engines were installed and brought performance improvements.

Several Air Force Reserve, active-duty, and Air National Guard locations utilize the C-130 and its variations. The Hercules served with the U.S. Air Force, Navy, Marines, Coast Guard, NASA, foreign military. and commercial operators. It is also the largest and heaviest aircraft to land on an aircraft carrier.

Salvaged from the Antarctic

In January 1988, a C-130 was recovered 17 years after crashing in the Antarctic. The entire plane was buried under snow and ice, except for three feet of its tail. The United States did not intend to salvage the plane when it first crashed in 1971, but later decided to dig it out of the ice.

Recovering the plane became priority partly because while it cost $10 million to recover it, purchasing a new one would have cost $38 million.

The recuperation process began with another plane giving it a "buddy start" to compensate for issues with the plane's No. 4 engine. A second plane parked on the skiway in front of the salvaged plane with three working engines. The second plane then revved its engines to create air--activating the propeller of the No. 4 engine. All four engines were running and the plane sped down the skiway and into the air but did not fully take off.

Today, the Hercules is equipped with a digital cockpit, automated flight systems management, six-blade Dowty propellers, and Rolls-Royce AE 1200 D3 turbopop engines. Improvements include one-third better range, 15 percent more fuel efficiency, and 25 percent more thrust.


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