November 30 2012, saw the formal retirement of the hard working and graceful C-130H Hercules transport aircraft from 37 Sqn RAAF. It was planned to celebrate the retirement by going out in style….. and for over a week at RAAF Richmond, NSW special events were held on the base with dinners, photos / reviews of past operations, special flying displays and a family day. These all allowed current and past aircrews and personnel to honour the RAAF’s C-130H Hercules impressive 34years of hard service to the nation.
The RAAF took on charge 12 Lockheed propeller driven, turbine powered C-130H in 1978 to replace the 36 Sqn C-130A Hercules which had reached their end of use. At the time, 37 Sqn operated C-130E Hercules and these were later retied in 1999. By 2006 the C-130H were transferred to 37 Sqn, as 36 Sqn moved to Qld to operate the 6 large and jet powered C-17 Globemasters. 37 Sqn now operates only 12 of the hard working C-130J Hercules. It needs to be noted that none of the 12 C-130H never crashed or had major accidents, thus showing their safety record was strong. (An interesting fact to reinforce, is that the RAAF has never lost a single C-130 type to any accident or crash since their use started in 1958). The role of the C-130 Hercules in the RAAF for over 7 decades has seen it fulfil roles such as moving cargo, vehicles and defence personal around Australia and overseas on exercises or operations. It has also being used in humanitarian airlifts and local support missions in which airdrops of fodder to stranded cattle was carried out. Other more noticeable missions included flying long range missions to the cold and windy Australian Antarctic missions and the more unusual role in 1989 where they became defacto “airliners” flying passengers stranded during the pilots’ strike of 1989.
The RAAF’s airlift capability will be maintained in the future by 12 C-130Js and 6 C-17s. To add to this are 10 C-27J Spartans on order and are expected to come online at Richmond during 2014-2015.
For the retirement ceremony, the colour standard of 37 Sqn was paraded and a review of personnel conducted. In the review and speeches, the 2 final flying C-130H Hercules A97-005 and 008, made 3 passes over the base south – north and east – west. They then landed and were given a “wash down” by 2 fire trucks with their water hoses as a parting gesture. The C-130s then taxied in, shut down and the 12 aircrew members then had official photos taken of their final flight. The retirement was overseen with the Minister for Defence Stephen Smith making a speech in which he highlighted the squadron’s duty to the nation, the impressive capabilities it had with the C-130 Hercules and a look to the future as it continues flying air lift missions. Also present was Air Commodore Gary Martin, Wing Commodore Ross Magno and Commanding Officer of 37 Sqn Mark McCallum. The praise and hard work undertaken by the personnel was mentioned and the capability the aircraft had provided Australia was again noted. 2 awards were presented to 37 Sqn. A few base staff also watched the ceremony.
It is reported at press time that 4 of the retired C-130Hs will be transferred to the Indonesian Air Force. Up to 6 are being considered for sale overseas or other options.1 will be retained by the RAAF for training purposes at RAAF Richmond. A final example A97-011 was flown to the RAAF Museum at Point Cook in December 2012 joining C-130A model A97-214 and C-130E model A97-160 already on semi public display.