The aging Puerto Rican Air National Guard C-130H that took the lives of nine personnel when it crashed in Georgia today was reportedly on its final flight- and never made it to its destination.
The C-130H Hercules -serial number 65-0968- that went down over Savannah had been transferred to the Puerto Rican ANG in 2016 and was a member of the 198th Airlift Squadron, assigned to Muniz Air National Guard Base. Prior to its last assignment, the aircraft had belonged to the Tennessee Air National Guard and resided in Nashville.
The WC-130H was one of fifteen that were made available in 1972, though most started their life as “E” models, born as early as 1965. While the exact date of the aircraft is unknown, (given the production years of the “E” models) the original airframe was well over fifty-years-old.
Born to be an aerial weather reconnaissance plane, the WC-130s took part in storm reconnaissance, from hurricanes to typhoons, snowstorms and even odd jobs, such as air-dropping Christmas gifts. In heavy demand by the Air Force, the planes were shuffled from squadron to squadron, all around the globe.
Interestingly enough, ‘0968 was a special aircraft. Originally a rescue aircraft (HC-130H) before she became a hurricane hunter, she served as a testbed for prototype Improved Weather Reconnaissance Systems (IWRS) in 1985. Working with the platform for three years, the plane and her crews eventually gathered enough test data to allow IWRS to be implemented in every WC-130. To this day, the weather birds still carry modified and modernized versions of IWRS, providing life-saving information when Mother Nature strikes.
The ‘0968 was also a participant in Hurricane Maria, and even offered President Donald J. Trump shelter as he sat beneath her wing during disaster relief meetings.
The C-130 community, C130.net, reports that old ‘0968 was on her way to the “Boneyard” at Davis–Monthan Air Force Base in Arizona at the time of her untimely demise, destined to sit out a quiet retirement among other aircraft in a well-preserved state.
The nine crew on board have yet to be publicly identified, pending notification of next-of-kin.
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