August 22, 2014 (by Air Force Test Center History Office) - August 23 marked the 60th anniversary of the C-130 Hercules' first flight in 1954, from Burbank, Calif., to Edwards AFB.
Archived photo of the YC-130 #53-3397 in preparation for its ferry flight from Burbank, Calif. to Edwards AFB on August 23, 1954. [USAF photo]
Team Edwards took time to reflect on why this aircraft has been so valuable to the Air Force.
"The C-130 made her debut in 1954, and to this day, if there is a conflict or emergency, the mighty Hercules always has a role. In my more than 2,000 flying hours on the aircraft, she has never let me or the U.S. Air Force down," said Steven Walden, 418th Flight Test Squadron C-130/VC-25A Integrated Test Team lead. "The C-130 continually proves its worth in the U.S. Air Force inventory and even after 60 years, it continues to support humanitarian, tactical resupply, airlift and airdrop missions into some of the most austere locations that no other aircraft, nor flight crew, could be asked to do."
After Lockheed ferried the first YC-130 from Burbank to Edwards, flights one through four were conducted at the Air Force Flight Test Center. The aircraft was then ferried to Palmdale, Calif., on its fifth flight for a 25-hour engine inspection. Authorization was received by Lockheed to retain the aircraft at Palmdale for remaining test flights.
According to Wade Scrogham, Air Force Test Center deputy chief historian, the YC-130 aircraft was designed as a medium cargo/transport and was the first production aircraft to utilize turbo-prop power plants - four Allison T-56 turbo-prop engines. Lockheed flew both aircraft to Edwards Air Force Base for a test period of approximately 30 days and only sufficient flights were accomplished to prove airworthiness from Edwards. The remaining portion of Phase 1 tests were conducted at Palmdale.
Scrogham also noted that the C-130 was initially designed for assault and support missions carrying troops or supplies forward and returning casualties to the rear. As a troop carrier, the C-130 could be used for paratroops or ground troops; as a cargo carrier it could be used to carry large pieces of equipment such as a 155 mm howitzer and its high- speed tractor; and as an evacuation aircraft it could be rapidly converted to carry stretcher cases.
A tricycle landing gear with the main wheels in tandem was designed to permit the C-130 to operate from small emergency landing fields or rough forward airstrips.
"The vast amount of modifications and variants of the aircraft have this aircraft spread into every aspect of our inventory and to our international forces who also rely on its reliability rating and its capabilities that no other aircraft can deliver," Walden said. "The Hercules is the backbone of our nation's success in global reach and the reason that we can put troops into isolated locations at a moment's notice without compromising our safety and mission security."
"The unparalleled durability, flexibility, and reliability of the C-130 Hercules help to explain why the aircraft is still in production after 60 years," added Scrogham. "During that time, the C-130 and its variants logged over one million flight hours for 70 countries."