September 10, 2014 (by Eamon Hamilton) - A formation of three C-130J Hercules transport aircraft took to the skies over Sydney on Wednesday, 10 September to celebrate 800,000 flying hours by the Royal Australian Air Force Hercules fleet.
Two RAAF C-130J's from 37 Sqn fly in formation towards Sydney Harbour to celebrated 800,000 flying hours for the RAAF's C-130 Hercules transport fleet. [Photo by CPL Veronica McKenna © Commonwealth of Australia, Department of Defence]
The aircraft overflew the harbour through the heads at 3pm, flying at a height of 450 metres. They continued northwest, flying over RAAF Base Richmond at 3.30pm at an altitude of 75 metres.
Commander of Air Mobility Group Air Commodore Warren McDonald, said the milestone was a collective achievement for many thousands of Air Force personnel.
“Behind this milestone is the contribution of many talented men and women who have made these 800,000 flying hours possible,” AIRCDRE McDonald said.
“Several generations of Australians have contributed to this achievement, regardless of which Hercules they worked on.”
The first flight was in November 1958 when a RAAF crew departed in a C-130A Hercules from the Lockheed manufacturing plant in Atlanta, Georgia. Since then, Australia has operated four different models of the Hercules, conducting a variety of missions across the globe.
“The recent airdrop of aid to communities in Iraq is a good example of the service provided by the RAAF’s Hercules crews,” AIRCDRE McDonald said.
“For 56 years, they have flown people and cargo to where they’re needed, often under tough conditions, and proven a welcome sight for many.”
The fleet has supported Australian Diggers in Vietnam, East Timor, Iraq and Afghanistan. They have also been angels of mercy to disaster-struck regions including Pakistan, Indonesia, Papua New Guinea, and throughout the South Pacific.
They have served the Australian public too, from evacuating the injured following Cyclone Tracy in Darwin and the Bali Bombings. The aircraft’s versatility has allowed it to carry cargo ranging from armoured vehicles and helicopters, to a Royal Carriage for Her Royal Highness Queen Elizabeth II.
The legacy is carried on today from RAAF Base Richmond in Sydney’s north west, where a fleet of 12 C-130J Hercules is flown by No. 37 Squadron. Their recent achievements have included humanitarian airdrops to Iraq, and delivery of aid to South Sudan and the Philippines.
Introduced to service in 1999, Australia’s C-130Js have themselves reached a monumental 100,000 flying hours this month.
The interior of the Hercules can be configured to carry up to 20 tonnes of cargo, up to 128 passengers, or 74 paratroops. Alternatively, the Hercules can be used for aero-medical evacuation roles to carry 97 stretcher patients, or search and rescue missions for sailors stranded at sea.
AIRCDRE McDonald said the Hercules’ legacy would continue, with a planned withdrawal date of 2030 for the current C-130J fleet.
“The fleet is presently undergoing a series of upgrades to increase their combat survivability and navigational awareness,” he said.
“While the cargo bay may not have changed much in these last 800,000 hours, Australia’s Hercules have come a long way in terms of performance and capability.”