Dyess Air Force Base, Texas, is in the processing of becoming the world’s largest operator of the C-130J Super Hercules tactical airlifter.
At the base near Abilene, the 317th Airlift Group will have 28 C-130J-30 models by March 2013. Twenty-three aircraft were on station as of Sept. 30, 2012. While filling out its inventory, the group, which began as a C-47 Skytrain transport outfit in World War II, marked its 70th anniversary on Oct. 12.
On Sept. 26, the base said “so long” to its last two C-130H models (serial nos. 74-1667 and 74-2063). When he made the final Dyess departure of a C-130H that day, Capt. Christopher Dorough was aboard the aircraft that had been the first “H model” to arrive at the base. The Hercules had been delivered to the base on March 31, 1975 by his father, then-Capt. Robert Dorough. Before the H version, units at Dyess operated C-130A, C-130D and C-130E models going back to Feb. 1, 1961. One of the first C-130As built by Lockheed, now Lockheed Martin (serial no. 55-0023), is on display at Dyess’s Linear Air Park.
The departure of the last C-130H was a “bittersweet day,” Col. Walter H. Ward, 317th Airlift Group commander, told reporters. “We’re not only saying goodbye to the ‘H models’ that have had a great history here for 37 years, but we are losing flight engineers and navigators who are not a part of the C-130J crew complement.” The crew of the J model consists of just two pilots and a loadmaster.
Dyess’s latest Hercules aircraft have already deployed to Southwest Asia and are continuing a long tradition of service begun by the earliest C-130 versions.
A personal note: The author of this article experienced an in-flight emergency (IFE) aboard a 317th C-130H (serial no. 74-2132) piloted by Capt. Joe Jarboe on Feb. 12, 1997. An instrument panel light warned of an engine fire. Jarboe later said the occurrence was “almost routine” – but only after nearly running over the author when scrambling to get away from the aircraft after landing. In fact, the crew handled the IFE with calm skill, just as members of this group have always done.