C-130 Hercules. Gunship, cargo transport, search, and rescue. One of Kelly Johnson's few lapses of judgment

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I've been on a -130 twice, going into and out of Riyadh from and to Dhahran in 1992. Loud and uncomfortable sonsabitches, but leaving Riyadh in July it was my favorite airplane in the world that day.

I've flown on one 3 times. Once from Germany to Kosovo so we could pick up a UH-60 Black Hawk and fly it back to Germany for maintenance. Same experience as your had. Loud and uncomfortable. Fortunately the crew chief saw me in my flight suit and after we reached altitude he motioned me to the cargo pallets for more room.

The 2nd time was from Balad Air Base Iraq to Kuwait City. I was going home on 2 weeks R&R. Had to catch another flight from Kuwait to Germany. They did a combat take off to get us out of MANPAD and small arms range.

I actually enjoyed that flight. Why? I was getting the hell out of the sandbox and going home.

My third C-130 flight was my absolute worst. It was on my way back to Iraq 2 weeks later from Kuwait City to Balad, Iraq. Did a nice expedited approach into Balad to avoid MANPADS and small arms fire.

Why did it hate that particular flight so much?

  1. It was a C-130. Loud, hot, and uncomfortable.
  2. It was taking me back to the sandbox.
  3. And the absolutely worst reason? I was on a flight full of Marines… :lol:
I have never flown in a 130. One of my troops did, flying on an AC-130 we were using for pre-launch surveillance. Zipping around in steep banks at low altitude almost guaranteed a trip to Barf City, even for the experienced crews. So they cracked open the big doors in the back and let them put on a safety harness and hang their heads out in the fresh air.

I've been up in a C-141A a few times with the doors open in the back. But talk about a lapse in judgement! When the C-141 production ended Lockheed asked the USAF what they wanted to do with the production tooling and fixtures. The Air Force replied they no longer needed the stuff and Lockheed did not want to pay to store it, eitehr, so it was destroyed. Both the USAF and Lockheed later wished they had kept that stuff. The Air Force would have liked to have bought more 141's after the C-5 proved to be too expensive and Lockheed realized they could have served a lucrative export market.
Ok...a couple of (probably apocryphal) C-130 stories that were well known at RAF Lyneham in the 1990s.

A Herc was carrying a bunch of squaddies to some far-flung corner of the world. Part way through the flight, the aircraft captain emerges from the cockpit, carefully unfurling two long pieces of string behind him. One piece of string has a blue label attached, the other has a red label. Identifying a very young-looking soldier, he walks over and says "Hey...I need to go to the loo. Will you make sure the aircraft stays straight and level while I'm doing my business?" He duly puts the "red" string in the soldier's left hand, and the "blue" string in his right hand and says "Ok...if you see that the aircraft is starting to turn to the left, just pull on the blue string. If it starts turning to the right, pull on the red string. Got it?" The soldier solemnly declares that he understands the instructions, and off goes the captain to the "can" down the back of the aircraft. After a few seconds, the aircraft starts turning gently to the left. The soldier pulls on the blue string and, sure enough, the aircraft starts flying straight again. The soldier smiles and looks around at his mates with a smug expression. A few seconds later, the aircraft starts turning to the right so the soldier pulls the red string...and nothing happens. The aircraft continues to bank to the right. The soldier starts fiercely tugging on the blue string but to no avail. The captain emerges from the "can" visibly furious. "Do you have ANY idea how hard it is to take a crap with the aircraft rolling around like that? What on earth do you think you're doing?" The soldier mumbles something about pulling the red string but nothing happened. "Show me!" demands the captain, closely followed by "No, no, no. You're doing it all wrong. Here, let me show you." The captain then takes back the strings, pulls on the red one and. sure enough. the aircraft returns to straight and level flight. "You're bluddy useless!" declares the captain, who then carefully re-wraps the strings and returns to the cockpit. The poor soldier remained blissfully ignorant that he was being screwed with, given that the co-pilot was in the cockpit the entire time.

Similar story...a Herc with a bunch of squaddies ("walk-on baggage") down the back for a short trip within the UK. The Loadmaster walks around the cargo bay completing his checks, ending near the ramp at the rear. Above the ramp is a small emergency access hatch that provides access to the top of the fuselage, just next to the fin. Finding the nearest soldier, he says "Listen, I've got to check something up top. Do NOT let the pilot take off while I'm still up there." Up climbs the Loadmaster, at which point the engines start....and the soldier gets nervous. The aircraft starts to taxy and the soldier is even more nervous...but he's petrified of getting up and interrupting the flight deck. In due course, the aircraft takes off, by which time the poor soldier was visibly shaking. After a little while, the aircraft comes in to land at the destination, taxies to the apron and the engines shut down. Immediately, the top hatch by the cargo door is flung open and the Loadmaster jumps down. His hands and feet are white as sheets, his hair is standing vertically on end, and he's visibly shaking. "YOU F****** IDIOT!!!" he yells at the poor squaddie. "Didn't I tell you to not let them take off with me up top?" I'm F****** FREEZING!!!!!" He then promptly opens the cargo door and kicks all the squaddies out, cursing each of them out in turn. What happened on this fateful flight? After climbing onto the fuselage, the Loadmaster walked along the top to the cockpit, where the Nav let him in. He sat on the rumble bench the entire flight, carefully applying white make-up to his hands and face, and liberally dosing his head with gel and hairspray to make his hair stand on end.

Sometimes I think Herc crews had too much time on their hands!
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The only thing I liked about the Herc was jumping out of it.
Compared to the space and relative comfort of, say, the Argosy and Andover, the Herc was extremely cramped, uncomfortable, especially on long flights at low-level, and was very noisy and smelly.
Even when jumping, one had to be careful, as there was an exterior step which needed top be cleared on exit. Too "tight" an exit, and the parachute pack would hit the step, tumbling the jumper. Too aggressive an exit, and the jumper could clear out beyond the slipstream baffle, just forward of the door, and end up in serious rigging line twists.
Only problem is deciding what kit to leave out of your container to fit more duty free in !

Leave stuff out? Nope...I reckon you should pile more in and put it all on a pallet! Just get the Herc to drop your pallet of goodies before you jump out. Simples! :)

Ah, yes. the old A-41 radio was good for that.
Dump the battery, and load three or four cases of Rothmans ( or brand of choice) into the battery compartment, along with a couple or more of knock-off Rolex, then strip the card cover off the spare battery and do the same ( or in one case, person unknown, two P-38's and a PPK plus spare mags and cleaning kits !!!), put the cover back on and pack it back into its compartment on the stupid radio frame ( I carried the radio and associated kit in my "Bergan", much more practical). If stopped at "civvy" Customs, then just declare the kit is "Classified", and can't be inspected !!!
The mortar and anti-tank platoons had it cushy, as they could pack a lot into the tubes / barrels ( the old "Wombat" gun was still in servIce in my early days), and they made a small fortune selling on booze, fags, watches etc etc.
Even heard some tales of the old Series II Land Rover's, returning overland from Germany in the early 1970's. where the reserve 10 Imp Gal fuel tank was filled with contraband of choice, along with the spare tyre and any other "convenient compartment" !!
Oh, happy days .......................

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