Paul Dunn's 2011 blogGAR Entries

AUG 09 2011
blogGAR: Three Generations of the Albert Family

The Lockheed C-130 Hercules is one of my favourite types, and I always enjoy any opportunity to photograph Hercs of any version or operator. With the aircraft having been in production for over 40 years, there are plenty of them about and I’ve been lucky enough to stumble upon a few aircraft of various ages and operators over the last month or two.

First up are some images from a trip to Phoenix back in Jun. After spending the previous day chasing fire tankers at Winslow with only modest success, I was up for a more relaxed day. I’d seen a USMC KC-130J Hercules at Gateway on the day that I’d arrived. Apparently it had been spending the night at Gateway but operating out of Coolidge Municipal during the day, so I decided to take a trip down there to check it out.

I arrived to find the aircraft bathed in morning sunlight, getting ready to pick up some Marines who were in the area for parachute training. The KC-130J hailed from VMGR-352 ‘Raiders’ based at MCAS Miramar and part of the 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing. Despite the early hour, it turned out that the Marines were preparing for their second jump of the day – the first sortie had taken place before dawn!

After the Hercules departed I went for a wander around the very quiet ramp. Coolidge is home to International Air Response which operates a fleet of very early ex-USAF C-130As in a variety of roles. Its facility at Coolidge is currently being rebuilt, so the operational fleet has moved to Phoenix-Mesa Gateway Airport leaving only the non-airworthy machines behind. It looks like at least one of these is being dismantled for spares and looks like it won’t be too much longer for this world.

One other interesting movement was this Piper Seneca operated by Safford Aviation in the Air Attack role.

Presently the KC-130 reappeared overhead to drop its paras, before returning with a smart break over the airfield.

Arriving at about the same time as the KC-130 was a very smart Beechcraft King Air. After the Hercules landed, it didn’t remain on the ground for long – after debriefing the flight the crew departed once again, this time to return to Gateway. I did the same, although they got there much quicker than I did!

I spent the rest of the afternoon at Gateway, arriving just in time to see the DC-10 fire tanker return from a mission. It flew another mission later in the day. The only other movement of note on a fairly quiet weekend was a Fairchild RC-26B which made a brief stop for fuel. This aircraft is on the strength of the Arizona ANG and based at Tucson International Airport. It is believed to be used for surveillance duties within the state of Arizona, but leads a somewhat shadowy existence.

A couple of weeks later I found myself in the San Diego area. Following a visit to MCAS Camp Pendleton in the morning (watch this space for a forthcoming feature), I decided to check out NOLF Imperial Beach in the afternoon. I previously visited Imperial Beach a few months earlier and on that occasion I was lucky enough to see one of the CoNA SH-60s – very smart.

By the time I arrived, the sun was very high in the sky and the lighting harsh. That, combined with a shortage of shelter from the sun and a lack of decent angles on the SH-60s in the circuit, made me decide to head back towards LA.

On the way back to the freeway I noticed a Hercules in the distance that looked like it was flying circuits. Realising that Brown Field was in that direction, I decided to go and take a look. I was rewarded with the sight of a C-130H from the 153rd Airlift Wing of the Wyoming ANG. As with the ‘Raiders’ Hercules at Coolidge, the aircraft was at Brown to pick up paratroops for training drops.

The aircraft departed shortly afterwards, and was in the air for some time. I was starting to feel like it was time to leave, but eventually it appeared on finals. I was glad that I had stuck around when I realised that there was another C-130 behind it!

The second aircraft was another ANG C-130H, this time from the 123rd AW of the Kentucky ANG.

With both aircraft on the ground and shut down, it was time to call it a day and head back to LA, happy with this added bonus to a very profitable day.

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