News>Distinguished aircraft retires, to be displayed at museum
C-130E #63-7868 taxies on Robins flight line after landing Tuesday. The 47-year old combat and humanitarian mission veteran aircraft is being retired and will be displayed at the Museum of Aviation. U. S. Air Force photo by Sue Sapp
Maj. John Fay, a C-130 training instructor at Little Rock Air Force Base and 1997 Houston County High School graduate, was the navigator of the crew who brought the C-130E to Robins. Here he talks to media with his parents John and Cathy, a retired Air Force KC-135 pilot and nurse respectively. U. S. Air Force photo by Sue Sapp
9/8/2011 - ROBINS AIR FORCE BASE, Ga. -- A 47-year old C-130E transport that has flown hundreds of combat and humanitarian missions around the world made its last flight Tuesday and will be retired and displayed at the Museum of Aviation at Robins.
The aircraft's final flight had a rather personal connection to Warner Robins - the navigator on the crew who flew it was Maj. John Fay, who was a Junior ROTC cadet a Houston County High and an ROTC graduate from Valdosta State. Major Fay is a C-130 instructor at Little Rock Air Force Base, the largest C-130 training base in the country.
The C-130 was manufactured by Lockheed Aircraft in Marietta, Georgia in April 1964. Its first assignment was to an airlift unit at Pope AFB, N.C. Seven months later, it and several other C-130s were called into action to rescue civilians who had been taken hostage by Simba rebels in the Congo city of Stanleyville. Dubbed Operation Red Dragon, U.S. crews first flew to Belgium to pick up Belgian paratroopers, then on to Spain and Ascension Island and finally to a remote airfield in Africa called Kamina, the staging base for the rescue operation.
Early on the morning on Nov. 23, 1964, the C-130s flew over Sabenas airport in Stanleyville and dropped over 300 paratroopers who overpowered the rebels at the Victoria Hotel and freed the hostages. In the C-130 flights that followed more than 2,000 civilians were taken out of Stanleyville to a safe haven at Leopoldville.
The aircraft was one of the first C-130s to fly out a load of 100 civilians. During its departure it was fired upon by rebels who managed to put a hole in the left wing fuel tank. The commander of that aircraft was Capt. Mac Secord, who now lives in Atlanta, Ga. He managed to take off and fly 800 miles to their base but had to shut down one engine during flight. He and the other C-130 crewmembers involved in Operation Red Dragon received the U.S. Air Force MacKay Trophy in 1964 for the most meritorious flight of the year. All of the crewmembers were decorated with the Air Medal, and Captain Secord received the Distinguished Flying Cross.
From 1971 to 1973, #7868 was one of five C-130Es used by Air America for operations in Laos. For the next 16 years it flew missions out of Clark Air Base in the Philippines. It was then assigned to the Rhode Island Air National Guard, and finally to airlift units at Pope AFB, NC and Little Rock AFB, AR.
The Hercules E-models have been replaced with newer versions of the venerable airlifter, first the H-model introduced in 1974 and the J-model which entered the inventory in 1999. The C-130J brings substantial performance improvements over all previous models, and has allowed the introduction of the C-130J-30, a stretch version with a 15-foot fuselage extension. The U.S. Air Force has selected the C-130J-30 to replace retiring C-130E's.