CHARLESTON, W.Va. — When you look to the skies above the Kanawha Valley Saturday afternoon, there’s a chance you’ll see the last of a rather familiar formation moving through the air above West Virginia. The 130th Airlift Wing is staging a celebration of the C-130-H3 Aircraft ahead of its anticipated replacement.
“It will be a six-ship training formation. We regularly fly in formation to do personnel and cargo air drops, so this is a routine training operation, but his will probably be the last time we operate such a large formation with our current ‘H’ models so this is really a milestone for us,” said Colonel Patrick Chard, Vice-Wing Commander of the 130th Airlift Wing of the West Virginia Air National Guard.
The United States Air Force has designated Charleston as a “preferred alternative” for housing the new C-130 J models. According to Chard, it’s anticipated the head of the Air Force will soon make the designation official and the old C-130 -H3 editions will be slowly phased out. Chard said the new model makes vast changes in the aircraft operation.
Traditionally the C-130 is flown by two pilots, a flight engineer, navigator, and two load masters. However, the new J-Model eliminates the need for the flight engineer and navigator.
“One of the key focuses of the celebration Saturday is to recognize our navigators and flight engineers and their tremendous history of service they’ve given to the 130th Airlift Wing,” said Chard.
The 130th Airlift Wing will fly the tactical formation of C-130 H3 aircraft on a route across the state, landing at the end of a ceremony celebrating the men, women, and aircraft that delivered freedom with courage across the globe for the past 46 years. Former unit members are encouraged to attend and are invited to the 130th Airlift Wing Heritage Room at the end of the ceremony.
“We’ve literally flown this aircraft all over the world delivering both personnel and supplies for combat operations and humanitarian relief operations essentially everywhere,” he added.
Since it was formed in 1975, the 130th has a long history with the C-130 ships. The first eight “E” models arrived in 1975 and several of those had scars from combat operations in Vietnam. In 1986 the unit received eight C-130 H model aircraft from the 172nd Tactical Airlift Group in Jackson, Mississippi. In 1989, the unit received eight C-130 H2 aircraft straight off the factory floor from Lockheed Martin in Marietta, Georgia. Then in 2006, the 130th AW received eight C-130 H3 from the 167th Airlift Wing, in Martinsburg when the 167th transitioned into a C-17 base.