one reviews the encyclopedic range of accomplishments by the Hercules and
its valiant aircrews over the years, surely one of the most astounding
took place in October of 1963 when the U.S. Navy decided to try to land a
Hercules on an aircraft carrier: Was it possible? Who would believe that
the big, four-engine C-130 with its bulky fuselage and 132-foot wing span
- could land on the deck of a carrier?
only was it possible, it was done, in moderately rough seas 500 miles out
in the North Atlantic off the Boston Coast. In so doing, the airplane
became the largest and heaviest airplane to land on a U.S. Navy aircraft
carrier, a record that holds to this day.
Lt. James H. Flatley III was told about his new assignment, he thought
somebody was pulling his leg: "Operate a C-130 off an aircraft
carrier? Somebody's got to be kidding, " he said.
they weren't kidding. In fact, the Chief of Naval Operations himself had
ordered a feasibility study on operating the big propjet aboard the
Norfolk-based Forrestal. The Navy was trying to find out whether they
could use the big Hercules as a sort of "super-COD" - a
"Carrier Onboard Delivery aircraft". The airplane then used was
the Grumman C-1 Trader, a twin engine bird with a limited payload and only
a 300-mile range. If a carrier is operating in mid-ocean it has no
"on board delivery" system to fall back on and must come nearer
land before taking aboard even urgently needed items. The Hercules was
stable and reliable with a long cruising range and a high payload.
aircraft, a KC-130F refueler transport (BuNo 149798), on loan from the
Marines, was delivered October 8. Lockheed's only modification to the
original plane was to install an improved anti-skid braking system, remove
refueling pods form the wings and install a smaller nose-landing gear
"The big worry was whether we could meet the maximum sink rate of
nine feet per second," Flatley said. As it turned out, the Navy was
amazed to find they were able to better this mark by a substantial margin.
addition to Flatley, crewmen consisted of Lt. Cmdr. W.W. Stovall, co-pilot;
ADR-1 E.F. Brennan, flight engineer and Lockheed engineering flight test
pilot Ted H. Limmer, Jr., safety pilot. The initial seaborn landings, on
October30, 1963, were made into a 40-knot wind. Altogether, the crew
successfully negotiated 29 touch-and-go landings, 21 un-arrested full stop
landings and 21 unassisted take-offs at gross weights of 85,000 pounds up
to 121,000 pounds. At 85,000 pounds, the KC-130Fcame to a complete stop
within 267 feet, about twice the aircraft's wing span! The Navy was
delighted to discover that even with the maximum load, the plane used only
745 feet for take-off and 460 feet for landing roll. The short landing
roll resulted from close coordination between Flatley and Jerry Daugherty,
the carrier's landing signal officer. Daugherty, later to become a captain
and assigned to the Naval Air Systems Command, gave Flatley an engine
"chop" while still three or four feet off the deck.
Ted Limmer, who checked out fighter pilot Flatley in the C-130, stayed on
for some of the initial touch and go and full-stop landings. "The
last landing I participated in, we touched down about 150 feet from the
end, stopped in 270 feet more and launched from that position, using what
was left of the deck. Still had a couple hundred feet left when we lifted
off. Admiral Brown was flabbergasted...."
plane's wingspan cleared the Forrestal's flight deck "island"
control tower by just under 15 feet as the plane roared down the deck on a
specially painted line. Lockheed-Georgia's chief engineer, Art E. Flock
was aboard to observe the testing.
sea was pretty big that day. I was up on the captain's bridge. I watched a
man on the ship's bow and that bow must have gone up and down 30
feet." The speed of the shop was increased 10 knots to reduce yaw
motion and to reduce wind direction. Thus, when the plane landed, it had a
40 to 50 knot wind on the nose.
airplane stopped right opposite the captain's bridge," recalled
Flock. "There was cheering and laughing. Thereon the side of the
fuselage, a big sign had been painted on that said, "LOOK MA, NO
the accumulated test data, the Navy concluded that with the Hercules, it
would be possible to lift 25,000 pounds of cargo 2,500 miles and land it
on a carrier. Even so, the idea was considered a bit too risky for the
C-130 and the Navy elected to use a smaller CoD aircraft. For his effort
the Navy awarded Flatley the Distinguished Flying Cross.