C-130 Hercules Days

  • USN VX6 Hercules C-130 BL at the South Pole Station
  • USN VX6 Hercules C-130 BL at the South Pole Station. Unloading with engines running. Elevation 10,000'.
  • Flying north down the Beardmore Glacier from the South Pole.
  • Cockpit of the VX-6 C-130 BL - no Flight Director System in this B model
  • VX-6 C-130 BL unloading fuel drums while moving forward on skis.  Beardmore Weather Station.
  • Loading a VX6 C-130 BL at Williams Field ice runway
  • Loading a VX6 C-130 BL at Williams Field ice runway
  • A United States Air Force C-130 E
  • An Australian Air Force C-130 H coming in to land.

These were the very best of days
- flying the Charles 130

This was an airplane to fly and be proud of. Brand new in 1965, three Lockheed C-130 H models were delivered to the RNZAF, followed by two more in 1969. As I write this, 49 years later, those same five aircraft are still providing sterling service for the RNZAF. Back then, the American military units that operated the C-130 referred to it as the Can-Do flying machine. As a cargo and troop carrier airplane capable of operating from short unprepared airstrips, including snow, there was no equal … and hasn't been one since. 

In the southern summer of 1961, I was fortunate to get an early hands on look at the C-130's operated by the USN Squadron VX-6 in Antarctica.  These were BL models, the L indicating they were equipped with a ski/wheel configuration for use on both hard runways and open snow fields, including the 10,000' elevation site at the South Pole.

But my real love affair with the Hercules began in 1968, completing the type conversion course at RNZAF Base Whenuapai during June and July. The acquisition of our C-130’s from Lockheed’s factory included a package deal with excellent visual training aids, a Procedural Trainer [shared with the Lockheed Orion P3 B crews], but no Flight Simulator.  Therefore, all flight training was flown in the actual aircraft.  For me, transitioning from years of bumbling around the skies in the Bristol Freighter to operating the C-130 was a truly pleasurable and exciting experience.

Along with the C-130’s tremendous engine power, hydraulic driven flight controls, huge electrical capacity, anti-ice systems, air conditioning and pressurization, the aircraft came equipped with a full avionics package from Collins: 2 SSB HF coms, 2 UHF coms, 1 VHF com, 2 ADF navs, 2 VOR/ILS navs, 2 TACAN navs, Search/Weather radar, Doppler Radar nav, IFF/Transponder and Loran C nav. These aircraft were fully rigged for effective operations in the Vietnam war zone and the complex radio navigation world of the United States.

The RNZAF acquisition team had shrewdly decided on adopting the standard avionic fit used by the US Air Force, including the Collins Flight Director system for both pilots. These were such a pleasure for instrument flight, in particular when executing an ILS approach to low minimums. These so called Air Force Standard Flight Director systems were the forerunners of many such flight panel systems for military and commercial aircraft until the advent of the glass panels as fitted in the Boeing 757 - 767 and the ScareBus variants. 

As it happened, I was to continue using these mechanical Flight Director systems until I retired from flying in 1999 … in many corporate turboprops and jets, the Boeing 727 -100 & 200 and finally the Boeing 747 -100 & 200.  There was never a need to reprogram me so I could play with the FMS and the magenta line ... or whatever they do in those girlie airplanes?   I should note that at UPS, the B 757 was fondly known as the Panty Liner, because it was flown by many of our female pilots!

From 1968 through to 1972, I flew the C-130 around the world, including top vacation destinations like South Vietnam, Bangladesh, Alice Springs, Port Moresby, Cubi Point, Calcutta and Antarctica.  Holidays in Hell!


©2014 Peter Tremayne, Reno NV

Back to Top



  • Cockpit of an RNZAF C-130 H in flight.  Note the Flight Director System
  • RNZAF C-130H Hercules NZ7002 at Chittagong Airport, Bangladesh during the April 1972 Relief Operation.
  • Short rough field training at RNZAF Whenuapai
  • Self and crew (Neil Barr on right) greeted at Williams Field, Antarctica, by the NZ Scott Base Leader
  • Unloading NZ7002 at Chittagong, Bangladesh in 1972.  Flight Engineer, Doug Gawne on right
  • NZ7002 flying past our accomodation hotel in Dacca, Bangladesh 1972
  • NZ7004 flying over Auckland Harbour in 1969
  • A C-130 H dispensing heat flares for protection against missiles.
  • The five C-130H's of the RNZAF No. 40 Squadron in close formation in 1969, following the delivery of NZ7004 and NZ7005.