VIDEO/PICTURES: C-130J ride at Dubai

Nothing caps four busy days at a major air show such as Dubailike a ride in a military aircraft. At both Paris and Dubai Lockheed Martinhosted a media flight on the C-130J Super Hercules.  Both flights were verydifferent, yet highlighted the capabilities of what’s perhaps the world’s mostvenerable military transport. There is no better way to learn about an aircraftthan actually flying in it and chatting with the guys who work with it day after day. 

On Wednesday’s Dubaiflight, for example, I learned that when the C-130J is unloading cargo in a hotlanding zone the pilot can feather the aircraft’s propellers while keeping theengines at a high power rating. This means the guys rushing to unloadammunition, food, vehicles, or whatever aren’t blanketed by dust while theywork – yet the aircraft can still take off quickly if necessary.

Another cool thing: before take off the co-pilot sticks aspecial flash card into a slot next to his right arm rest. This records allaspects of the aircraft’s performance throughout a sortie, and the datagathered later helps maintenance crews quickly identify issues. The pilot toldme that he used to fly the ubiquitous H model. The J, he said, requires threecrew as opposed to five for the H, and is still easier to fly and operate.

I had the opportunity to sit in the co-pilot’s seat for a fewmoments. The pilot was still very much in control of the aircraft, but it wasinteresting to see how clear everything looked through the heads up display -and this with intense glare off the desert and Persian Gulf.The aircraft was extremely responsive, and lining it up to reach specificwaypoints was easy. At one point the pilot accelerated to 180 knots from 170 knots. I could feel the aircraft surge beneath me.

Aside from its ability to entertain journalists, the C-130series has been a huge sales winner for Lockheed. In the form of various variantsit has been flying for over half a century, and production of its latestvariant, the C-130J, will continue for some years. 15 countries have bought it.In the Asia Pacific C-130J users include Australia(a long-time C-130 user) and India,where the C-130J was the first American aircraft purchased in decades. Indiahas committed to six, and wants six more.

Finally, the views over Dubaiand the Persian gulf were awesome. I’ll take this thingover a commercial airliner any day. Below are photos of the flight, courtesy of Andy Poulastides/Lockheed Martin. 




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