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December 09, 2004

C-130 Carrier Quals

Way back in the old days when dinosaurs ruled the earth, I did a Mediterranean cruise on the USS Sarratoga (CV-60). O.K. it was 1980.  Maybe not dinosaur days but close. Anyway, one of the rumors that immediately impressed me was that our Skipper had once landed a C-130 on an Aircraft Carrier and taken off.

If you`re familiar with the military you know that most of the scuttlebutt (rumors) that make their rounds are mainly intended to impress the gullible. The first thing a shop will do to a brand new, fresh out of boot camp newbie is send them on a search for the elusive 10 foot of bulkhead or to find a bulkhead stretcher or in the case of airmen, a search for a pad eye wrench or the keys to a particular aircraft, none of which ever existed.

I say that from a Navy jet engine mechanic perspective, but each branch and rate has their own non existant item that they simply must have, RIGHT NOW !

I fell for the "keys to the aircraft" trick but nothing else after that, so when I heard that our C.O. had landed and launched a C-130 off a Carrier of course I was skeptical.

A Carrier is a huge beast of a ship with enough flight deck area to hold 3 simultaneous football games on, but a C-130 is a beast in its own right. With a wingspan of 132 ft. and a takeoff weight of 85,000 lbs. empty. Common sense would tell you that an Aircraft Carrier is the last place you want to land and takeoff on in a C-130.

This was 1980 when I heard the rumor, so Al Gore hadn`t invented the internet yet and Google was just a number with 64 zeros behind it. The only kind of computer that we had access to were P.E.T. 64Ks ( I think ) with a cassette drive. So with no way of backing up this absurd claim you can understand why I was skeptical...at first.

After serving a little time on the Sara I got to know a little more about our Skipper, James H. Flatley III ( Capt. at the time ) who's father was an Admiral and I believe his grandfather was also. I was more inclined to believe that it could have happened, but I wouldn`t say it openly.

Jump to the future 24 years where, thanks to Al Gore we have the internet, and since Google has gotten out of the numbers racket, the fact or fiction of a rumor is just a click away.

Lo and Behold he actually DID land and take off on a Carrier. Not only that but he did it 21 times under varying circumstances including under a maximum load of 121,000 lbs.

"The initial sea-born landings on 30 October 1963 were made into a 40-knot wind. Altogether, the crew successfully negotiated 29 touch-and-go landings, 21 unarrested full-stop landings, and 21 unassisted takeoffs at gross weights of 85,000 pounds up to 121,000 pounds. At 85,000 pounds, the KC-130F came to a complete stop within 267 feet, about twice the aircraft's wing span!"

Read all about it HERE.  After you read it, download and view the 2 short videos of a landing and a takeoff at the bottom of the page.

I had never seen any confirmation of this rumor until today and the only reason I have it now is because I told the guys at Arresting Gear about it a couple of times and one of them finally decided to check the facts.

Landing on an Aircraft Carrier is the most stressful thing a pilot can do. Navy and Marine pilots have said that Carrier landings cause their Pucker Factor to go to maximum like nothing else, and medical studies through monitors have indicated consistently that it is more stressful than actual combat and those are much smaller aircraft than a C-130, so imagine the finesse, not to mention the Pucker Factor, needed to land a beast like that on a Carrier.

Simply amazing is all I can say and.....Navy pilots RULE !

Fly Navy

Thanks to Bart and Scott

- Joatmoaf -

December 9, 2004 at 07:10 PM | Permalink


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» Herky Jerk from The LLama Butchers
Despite the fact that I'm personally terrified of flying, I've always had an interest in it. So I thought this was really cool - the October 1963 landing and take off of a C-130 Hercules from the deck of the... [Read More]

Tracked on Dec 15, 2004 5:18:06 PM

» Don't Try This At Home, Kids from Ed Driscoll.com
Video of a C-130 Hercules landing on an aircraft carrier.... [Read More]

Tracked on Dec 16, 2004 5:34:43 PM

» Un-be-lieve-able... from Random Jottings
Via I love Jet Noise, the true story of how a KC-130 landed and took off (repeatedly) from the Carrier USS Forrestal, in 1963. The C-130 Hercules, as I'm sure you know, is a big 4-engine cargo plane, with... [Read More]

Tracked on Dec 25, 2004 11:31:15 PM

» Un-be-lieve-able... from Random Jottings
Via I love Jet Noise, the true story of how a KC-130 landed and took off (repeatedly) from the Carrier USS Forrestal, in 1963. The C-130 Hercules, as I'm sure you know, is a big 4-engine cargo plane, with... [Read More]

Tracked on Dec 25, 2004 11:42:05 PM

» Un-be-lieve-able... from Random Jottings
Via I love Jet Noise, the true story of how a KC-130 landed and took off (repeatedly) from the aircraft carrier USS Forrestal, in 1963. The C-130 Hercules, as I'm sure you know, is a big 4-engine cargo plane,... [Read More]

Tracked on Dec 25, 2004 11:44:03 PM

» Speaking of aircraft carriers and the funny people who use them... from Argghhh! The Home Of Two Of Jonah's Military Guys..
The carrier in the picture in this post, that I challenged you to identify was indeed HMAS Melbourne. Your clinching clue that she was Aussie was the Gannetts. Of all those nations who operated that class of carrier, only the... [Read More]

Tracked on Mar 1, 2007 8:52:19 AM


Great post - I can see why you were reluctant to believe it.

Wow... I can't imagine landing that huge bird on a carrier.

I still remember watching the Unit do touch-and-goes on a field in the early 80's in preparation for carrier quals - the funniest part of the whole thing was that the ladies had all dressed up for the occasion in their best finery.

As the guys came in for the touch down, the instructor would give them some feedback via radio on whether they were high or low via "the ball". As a joke, the Unit's instructor motioned me into the shack and got me on the radio. As he came in, I was instructed to murmur in my most sultry voice,

"Roger ball, baby..."

...and watch his wings wobble from side to side.

Posted by: Cassandra at Dec 9, 2004 7:57:11 PM

It was the centerpiece of a JAG episode where Harm had to do the same thing.

Posted by: Chuck Simmins at Dec 9, 2004 8:27:03 PM

Wow! How much damage was done to the deck afterwards?

Posted by: Dex at Dec 9, 2004 8:30:14 PM

That's got to take serious guts to set that thing down on a carrier deck. I wouldn't want to do it.

Posted by: Cassandra at Dec 9, 2004 8:30:35 PM

Truely impressive to say the least and only the military could think of such a hairbrained idea and actually make it work.

DEX: A carrier flightdeck is 2 inch thick steel. The landings didn`t faze it other than probably doing an un-schedualed scrub down of it to remove tire skid marks and possibly a little non-skid patches here and there. Just another day onboard.

Posted by: Joatmoaf at Dec 9, 2004 8:46:56 PM

That's wild.
Did they ever think about using a drogue chute on landing or JATO bottles for take-off?
I think I remember seeing the Air Force using JATO's for short field take-offs for C-130's.

Posted by: Don Brouhaha at Dec 9, 2004 10:54:15 PM

No they just wanted to try it out as is, for a possible replacement to the C-1 COD.

Posted by: Joatmoaf at Dec 9, 2004 10:56:48 PM

Hmmm Why Not.. we launched multi-engine Bombers from Carriers in WWII... landing though.....'

How is this for a Dream.. a unamaned 'bomber/drone' with say a week's fuel/solar cells with say a B-26's bomb load that is carrier launchable (probably ought to land at a strip though).

I work in the 'print room' part of the computer industry at the moment and we have what we call PODs.. (Prints on Demand) Imagine a future with BODs (Bombs on demand)... Your in a hot zone .. anything from a 250lb to a 2000lb within 5 minutes.. bunker busters over that.. 20 minutes... not to mention antything else those wonderfully twisted minds can dream up and fit with a GPS guidance package....

'The Near Now'

"Overview four this is Bulldog Seven Actual"
"Go ahead Bulldog Seven Actual"
"Yeah... we have some Muj's driving folk out of Camp Foxtrox Whiskey Able... could we get a six By about 5k Little Debie drop at 692348 by 348834 for them to find once we pull in behind them."
"Rodger that Bulldog Seven Actual, twinkee drop in One niner zero minutes..."
"Rodger that Overview.. have anything for the raggedie ass colum that's behind em?"
"Talk looks like we have a full house spread for you Bulldog Seven Actual, been a quiet night."
"' A southern accent becomming somehwat prominate' Well then.. why don't all ya'all give em something to slow em down then show us what you dammyankees call a full house.'"

"Rodger that ya damm Georgia Bulldog, lets put Danger close at say... 50 feet..."
"Rodger That."

Posted by: LarryConley at Dec 10, 2004 3:21:28 AM

The video has been available on the Smithsonian's Air & Space magazine website for a few years. Go here and check out some pretty amazing footage.

Just in case the link doesn't work:

Posted by: Larry J at Dec 10, 2004 2:12:12 PM

Ummm. I believe that "Naval Aviators" is the term rather than "Navy pilots".

This video has amazed me for years. I was a helicopter pilot and would cringe if anyone told me to land on a ship. Even one as large as a carrier! They do move up and down ya know. Guess that's why I joined the Army!

Posted by: Kabar at Dec 10, 2004 5:03:09 PM

I could not help it but to think that way being a Weapons Q.A inspector with stuff about safe working load and other conditions. Not being a carrier sailor but I would think they would test all systems they was designed for iaw op's. Nice stuff.

Posted by: Dex at Dec 11, 2004 10:34:37 AM

"Did they ever think about using a drogue chute on landing or JATO bottles for take-off?
I think I remember seeing the Air Force using JATO's for short field take-offs for C-130's

Drag chutes have a nasty habit of pulling the tail of the aircraft to the side--and there was only 15 feet of clearance on the island. Another problem--they are unreliable--don't always deploy--not a problem if you have 10,000 feet of runway, but a big problem on a short one. Finally, the 130 uses heavy reverse thrust on touchdown--and a deployed drag chute would be sucked forward.

" I was a helicopter pilot and would cringe if anyone told me to land on a ship. Even one as large as a carrier!

I landed on a barge in the Gulf of Mexico once on a civil medevac flight. I had no prior training--the Chief Pilot just advised to make a normal landing--the pilot's perspective of the rise and fall of the deck translates into thinking the HELICOPTER is going up and down--and you compensate accordingly automatically.

Posted by: frequent flyer at Dec 11, 2004 3:29:09 PM

Regarding the use of JATO bottles--most C-130s are fitted for them. As I recall when I first heard of this--the use of JATO bottles was considered but rejected because there would be no chance of a rejected takeoff once the bottles were lit, and they wouldn't be of any use once the deck was cleared. "Fat Albert"--the C-130 support aircraft for the Blue Angels, regularly demonstrates steep JATO takeoffs during Blue Angel performances.

Posted by: frequent flyer at Dec 11, 2004 3:34:19 PM

In 1963 there was no JATO except in research and development. The ones the did have were designed for whatever particular aircraft was testing them, and as to the chute it probably wasn`t even considered.
This was just a test for an imaginative Navy brass to see if it could be done. I know they said it was a feasibility test for a replacement for the C-1 COD, but they have to justify it somehow.
I`m fairly certain that they never intended to replace the COD, they just wanted to see if it could be done...just in case.

Posted by: Joatmoaf at Dec 11, 2004 5:27:08 PM

frequent flyer,
That's it! I saw the Blue Angels in 2003 at an Air Show and that stuck in my mind.

Still, the landing and take off is pretty astounding, and a real credit to the pilots skill (and nerves!).

Posted by: Don Brouhaha at Dec 12, 2004 10:34:37 PM

As impressive as "Fat Albert" is--perhaps the ULTIMATE C-130 modification is "Credible Sport". During the Iran Hostage Crisis, there was a plan to land one or more C-130s in a SOCCER STADIUM! The aircraft were fitted with more efficient flaps, rockets to stop on the ground, and rockets firing straight down to allow it to takeoff nearly straight up like a helicopter. Rocket thrust was 180,000 pounds. The 130 would have the 50 hostages, plus the Special Forces on board.

The aircraft made the vertical takeoffs, but the aircraft was lost in the initial landing tests due to premature firing of the retro-rockets. This whole program was put together in 2 months--but wasn't needed when the Iranians decided to release the hostages. Here is a link to the site http://www.crediblesport.com/ Go to the left side, and page down from pages 1-7.

There is virtually no transport job a Herc hasn't been asked to do--except to go fast! See the 1997 proposal for amphibious floats for a Herc--order 5, and Lockheed will build them for you!

Posted by: frequent flyer at Dec 13, 2004 7:18:07 PM

As far as the USAF goes - We used to tell newbies to run out and get some flight line, or a gallon of jet wash.

Posted by: HawgGuy at Dec 20, 2004 9:54:57 PM

The practice isn't just isolated to the armed forces either.

In the minor's, we use to send a bat boy to the other dugout to get us the keys to the batters box. The other team might send him back with a message to trade them for a dozen curveballs. We, of course, would say we didn't have any to spare, but we could offer them a couple of left handed bats. This would go on until he caught on, or we ran out of ideas (at which point we wouldn't let the batboy off the hook, we just ended the "negotiations" to continue another day).

Posted by: Masked Menace© at Dec 22, 2004 9:40:19 AM

Get some flight line! hahahahahaha Now THAT'S FUNNY! I can't believe anyone would fall for that!

My brother is a C-130 Crew Chief. I wonder if he's seen this vid? That is TRULY amazing- thanks for sharing!

Posted by: AFSister at Dec 29, 2004 9:38:37 AM

In the Marine Corps (LVTs / Amtracks) in the early '80s we had hull plug filters, squelch grease, and BA-1100-Ns with st-rings for our turrets.

Posted by: FmrCpl at Jan 17, 2005 5:48:36 PM

man if that was possible whats next the c-17 globemaster three landing on a carrier deck.

Posted by: Brandon at Jan 20, 2005 12:20:46 AM

I want to see the video of the C-130 and the carrier..is it available for purchase? please advise.


Posted by: mike at May 23, 2005 9:08:59 AM

i served in the royal navy on hms (her majesty's ship, in case you didnt know)hermes, an aircraft carrier, as a chef. we were berthed in us naval base mayport.i had the chance to work onboard uss saratoga. she was one big mother!!
im now a drugs support worker in the uk.
bon voyage shipmates.

Posted by: anthony gregory at Aug 12, 2006 4:23:54 PM

plz answer my question

Posted by: yasser at Aug 3, 2010 12:33:59 PM

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Posted by: yasser at Aug 3, 2010 12:34:32 PM