C-130: 60 Years of Service and Heroism

The C-130 is not only a military aircraft with a 60 year history; it is a plane with a history of heroism. In 1975, Tim Nguyen was one of the passengers of the last C-130 to leave Vietnam. The young soldier was serving in the South Vietnamese air force, but he needed a ride to safety. At the last possible moment, the enemy gunfire ceased just long enough for Nguyen to exit a bunker at Tan Son Nhut Air and catch an unscheduled ride on the last C-130 on the runway. It was so crowded, that the rear ramp would not close due to the overcrowding.

Tim Nguyen told Fox News that “every time {the pilot} jammed on the brake, it pushed the passengers forward.” The savvy pilot’s maneuvers created more space at the rear of the plane. Nguyen was one of the many survivors who jumped into and caught a ride on the last C-130 to leave Son Nhut Air Base.

The C-130, known as Hercules, flew to Thailand and landed at the United States Air Base. A total of 452 refugees exited the plane. The plane was carrying in excess of 10,000 pounds more than its regulated payload.

Tim Nguyen is now an American success story working with the planes that saved his life. He came to the United States as a refugee. He worked diligently to learn the English language, and he worked a full-time job while putting himself through college. He earned an engineering degree. His goal was to work on aircraft similar to the one that helped deliver him to safety and freedom. In 1983, he reached his goal as Lockheed Martin became his employer. Nguyen continues to be a success story. His career path at Lockheed Martin has led him to be the leader in the development of defense systems for the C-130.

The C-130 first took flight on August 23, 1954. It is still in production, now known as the C-130J, and the a contract to purchase more of the Super Hercules is in the works by the U.S. Air Force later this year, according to Forbes. The original Hercules has been delivered to over 70 countries during the six decades the plane has been produced. More than half of the 2,400 planes are still operational proving that the C-130 is a workhorse and very reliable. The U.S. Coast Guard depends on it for maritime patrols. And the U.S. National Park Service uses the C-130 to battle forest fires.

C-130s have been flown into dangerous territory including war zones, like Vietnam, and also into hurricanes, nature’s fury. It also has landed in a place many would think impossible. The C-130 has the prestigious honor of being the largest and heaviest plane to ever land on an aircraft carrier. It landed safely without a tail hook to catch and anchor it to the aircraft carrier’s deck.  Specialized C-130s have been modified with landing gear skis and rockets to assist in take off and landings in harsh conditions.

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