A U.S. Air Force C-130J Hercules from the 19th Airlift Wing arrives at Philadelphia International Airport in September 2021. (Photo submitted by Bill Kerrigan)

Photo of the Week: Happy Birthday, Hercules

A workhorse of the U.S Air Force fleet just celebrated a birthday.

On August 23, 1954, the C-130 Hercules took to the skies on its maiden flight. The first C-130 prototype successfully completed a 61-minute journey from Lockheed’s Burbank plant to Edwards Air Force Base in California.

The C-130 is perhaps the most successful transport aircraft ever built, with more than 2,500 produced as of 2015. While the basic airframe has remained mostly unchanged, the C-130 has undergone continuous upgrades throughout its career with the latest models featuring state-of-the-art aircraft technology.

Best known for its versatility, over 70 different variants of the Hercules have been produced, both for civilian and military applications. More than 60 countries around the world have operated the C-130. Locally, the 911th Airlift Wing at Pittsburgh International Airport operated C-130 aircraft until they were phased out in 2018 to make way for C-17 aircraft at the base.

Bill Kerrigan captured this great shot of the C-130J from the 19th Airlift Wing in Little Rock, Arkansas landing at Philadelphia International Airport in September 2021.

The C-130J is the latest variant featuring upgraded Rolls Royce engines with six-bladed propellers, a stretched fuselage for additional capacity and digital cockpit. First entering service in 1996, the standard J-model can carry over 46,000 pounds of cargo and can take off in just 2,000 feet of distance.

In March 2022, the Air Force received its 500th C-130J which was delivered to the West Virginia Air National Guard’s 130th Airlift Wing.

Thanks for sharing the great photo, Bill! Most remarkably, the C-130 is the longest continuously produced military aircraft in history, with the U.S. military most recently ordering up to 50 more aircraft in January 2020. Production of the Hercules is currently expected to last until 2025.

The service life of the type lasts far longer, however. The Air Force expects to fly its older C-130 models through 2040 while newer models are likely to go further beyond.

Our readers continue to pass along shots of unique aircraft, international airports, historical events, gorgeous views and even family vacation photos for this feature. We love them! Keep them coming—you can click here for submission guidelines.

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