temperatures in the North and the hottest temperatures in the desert. They just designed it right, and we did everything with this aircraft.”
By Joanna Calder
Hercules came home to Ottawa on April 5, 2016.
Not the demi-god of Roman mythology, but a Hercules of equal might and power: the Royal Canadian Air Force’s last E-model CC-130 Hercules aircraft.
A small but enthusiastic crowd waved and cheered as the tactical air transport aircraft flew low, slow and loud down the length of the runway at the Rockcliffe Flying Club before landing and carefully taxiing into place about 15 metres from the Canada Aviation and Space Museum and the now-safely seated spectators. The noise of the engines at that distance, and the whine as they shut down, was tremendous.
During the flight from Trenton, search and rescue technicians made one final jump from the Hercules, which was most lately employed as a search and rescue aircraft.
After 51 years of service and more than 47,000 hours of flying time – with only about two and a half hours of flying time left on the airframe – Hercules 130307 will become part of the museum’s permanent collection. It was the last 1960s-era E-model still flying with the RCAF, although the Air Force continues to fly the newer H-model and J-model Hercules.
“I am delighted that Hercules No. 130307 . . . has found a permanent home with the Canada Aviation and Space Museum in Ottawa, where it will showcase the RCAF’s air mobility role for years to come,” said Lieutenant-General Hood, commander of the RCAF, during the ceremony welcoming the Hercules to the museum.
Lieutenant-General Hood, who was onboard the flight from 424 Search and Rescue Squadron at 8 Wing, began his air force career as a navigator – now known as an air combat systems officer (ACSO) – on Hercules and has a long relationship with this particular “Herky-bird”.
On November 17, 1987, he took his first flight as a navigator-trainee on No. 130307 while at Canadian Forces Air Navigation School in Winnipeg – a 3.2 hour low-level visual route. It was his first – but far from last – flight as a Hercules navigator; he eventually amassed 3,158 hours on Hercs. On 130307’s final flight, he was listed as a member of the aircrew in the position of “ACSO 2”.
“I don’t know what I did right, but I enjoyed every single hour I spent flying [Hercules aircraft] around the world,” remarked Lieutenant-General Hood. “I’ve had such a rewarding career and it’s primarily due to that aircraft.”
A number of passengers joined the aircrew for the flight, commanded by Lieutenant-Colonel Philip Marcus, including the RCAF chief warrant officer, Chief Warrant Officer Gerry Poitras; the executive director of the National Air Force Museum in Trenton, Ontario, Mr. Chris Colton; the president and CEO of the Canada Science and Technology Museums Corporation, Mr. Alex Benay; and the commander of 8 Wing Trenton, Ontario, Colonel Colin Keiver. Lieutenant-Colonel (retired) Karen McCrimmon, who is now Member of Parliament for Kanata-Carleton in the Ottawa and associate minister of National Defence, and Mr. Christopher Kitzan, Director General, Canada Aviation and Space Museum, greeted crew and passengers as they stepped off the aircraft.
“I think back to days when we were commanding officers side-by-side in Trenton flying this wonderful aircraft,” Lieutenant-General Hood told Lieutenant-Colonel McCrimmon, who is a former commanding officer of 429 Transport Squadron at 8 Wing and the first woman to command an RCAF flying squadron.
“We need to give thanks for this wonderful blessing. For the gifts of belonging to a country such as this where we can make a difference in the lives of so many people around the world,” said Lieutenant-Colonel McCrimmon. “Canada is a wonderful team . . . of people who really care . . . about the future, who care about each other, and are willing to do the tough work when it needs doing.
“So, thank you to all of you who came out to celebrate with us today, to all of you who have been part of this magical CC-130 – here in Canada and in other nations around the world.”
“While many would say this actually a day to lament and be sad for what was, I’m at the other end of the spectrum. I think that this is something to celebrate,” said Lieutenant-General Hood. “This aircraft’s going into a museum where generations of future Canadians are going to understand the history of the CC-130.”
“This will be a major part of our upcoming programming. This is our first such aircraft, obviously, in the collection and we’re extremely honoured, extremely proud to have you all here today to celebrate with us,” said Mr. Benay. “It’s a testament to the service [of the] men and women of the Royal Canadian Air Force, and we are extremely proud to . . . be in a position to tell its stories for years to come.
Hercules 130307 was the seventh Hercules – and the third E-model – acquired by Canada. It entered service on February 9, 1965, and has been used for transportation, search and rescue and navigation training.
The aircraft first flew with 435 Squadron, located at RCAF Station Namao (now Canadian Forces Base Edmonton) in Alberta. After ten years or so at Namao, it was converted into a navigation training aircraft and transferred to 429 Transport Squadron in Winnipeg where it was drawn upon by the Canadian Forces Air Navigation School. It was one of four Hercules modified to train navigators, who would go on to serve primarily in transport (CC-130 Hercules) or maritime patrol (CP-107 Argus and later CP-140 Aurora) aircraft.
With the introduction of a dedicated navigation training aircraft in 1991, 130307’s time as a navigation trainer came to an end. In 1993, it was converted into a search and rescue aircraft and went to 424 Search and Rescue Squadron in Trenton, Ontario.
“This aircraft would have explored the North, would have been in the Sinai in the height of troubles in the 70s, was in the first Gulf War, delivered food aid around Ethiopia . . . It would have seen north, south, east and west,” said Lieutenant-General Hood.
“Not only did it do its present job as search and rescue, it was a tactical airlift aircraft, it was a navigation training aircraft, and it was a troop and personnel transporter. . . . Many times around the world, this was the flag of Canada. This is what people saw of our great country. Delivering hope. Delivering needed aid. Helping people in times of need.
“And it was a great privilege to fly it. I think all the crew here today would join me in thanking the museum for agreeing to take care of our beloved aircraft, 130307.
“Born in 1965, and properly retired in 2016.”
About the Hercules
“[The Hercules] is sturdy – it’s like a Mack truck,” said Lieutenant-General Hood. “It can get into short airfields; it can operate at the coldest temperatures in the North and the hottest temperatures in the desert. They just designed it right, and we did everything with this aircraft.”
The Hercules aircraft was designed in the 1950s – born out of needs identified during the Korean War. Hercules aircraft have been in production since 1955, and it is one of the most successful military transport aircraft ever designed. Last year, Lockheed Martin delivered its 2,500th Hercules; over the years the company has produced dozens of variants, including aircraft for civilian use. It is operated in about 68 nations and the globally the fleet has logged more than 22 million fight hours. The Hercules production line in Marietta, Georgia, is, in fact, the longest continuously operating military aircraft production line in history.
The Royal Canadian Air Force received its first Hercules aircraft – B models – on October 5, 1960, and they remained in service until March 1967. Improved versions were ordered as time went by. Twenty-four CC-130Es were delivered between December 1964 and August 1968, followed by 14 CC-130Hs delivered in batches between October 1974 and March 1991. The air force received a pair of civilian L100-30s / Model 382Gs with stretched fuselages in May 1997; these aircraft are known locally as CC-130H-30s.
Five of the CC-130Hs were converted to tankers – CC-130H(T) – to conduct air-to-air refuelling with the CF-188 Hornet fighter aircraft.
Continuing to recognize the heroic qualities of the Hercules, the RCAF acquired 17 new CC-130J Hercules; the first arrived in Canada on June 4, 2010, and the final one on May 11, 2012. All are located at 8 Wing Trenton. The J models represented a significant leap forward in technology and, to emphasize the “newness” of this aircraft, the J models were been given a new series of tail numbers – the 600 series. Thus, the older Hercules aircraft have 300 series tail numbers (e.g., 130307), while the CC-130Js have tail numbers beginning with 130601.
The Hercules is the mainstay of the RCAF’s transport fleet, as it is for many other nations – at home and abroad, in peace and in conflict. It is rugged, capable of taking off and landing on short, unprepared landing strips. It can even operate on only one of its four engines.
Its many uses include moving troops, equipment and supplies for both combat and humanitarian aid missions, para jumps and equipment drops, search and rescue, resupply to remote locations such as Canadian Forces Station Alert in the High Arctic, aircrew training and air-to-air refuelling.
With files from Major Brendon Bond, RCAF historian.