Hercules Extras

There were so many things I learned about the Hercules C-130 and only so much room for asides during sim sessions that this topic has been held over for another blog entry. If you have any questions about the airplane that I can't answer, we can draw on John and knowledgeable readers to find out.

I feel a little guilty about setting a poor example, in that from beginning to end we had almost no plan for the sim session. The time, time of day and the like kept changing with no guarantee I would be able to actually fly it, so we never sat down to make a flight plan. An alternate titles for that blog entry was How Not to Fly an Unfamiliar Airplane. It worked out pretty well, but I wish I had done fewer turns and stalls so I had time for another circuit.

Wikipedia hosts this image of a C-130J HUD but it doesn't look exactly what I saw. I assume the display is somewhat user-customizable, as implied by this fascinating article about testing of the concept of using automation to reduce the number of crew members on board a Hercules. These testers didn't like the HUD as presented in their simulation, but it was simply superimposed over the scenery on the same screen, so not the same at all. I noticed, however, that the same technology was used at the instructor station in the sim I was in, for the instructor's view of what the pilots are seeing. I didn't realize until this experience how useful a HUD would be. Boss, if you're secretly reading my blog, you now know what I want for Christmas.

Looking for information to use to prepare myself for the sim, I found this document. It gives truly excellent advice, most of which is obvious to me now, but which I wish I had had prior to training for my first type rating. Unfortunately it is a companion to the computerized study materials on the C-130J and contains only generic advice, not the aircraft-specific information I sought. John couldn't give me the study CD, although it was probably copyright and not military classification that forbade the external release of the data.

Advice on pre-departure briefings is eye-opening, because of all the various hazards the crew might have to look at, especially flying in parts of the world with poor availability of weather forecasting. And this study question reminds me that there's a type of briefing I never get from Nav Canada when I call:

Before leaving home station on missions departing the CONUS, crews will receive a (an) ____________ briefing that will emphasize terrorist, enemy, and friendly political and military development in the area in which they will be flying.

I have the image of a METAR style symbology with teletype-style abbreviations representing the likelihood of various types of enemy action throughout the day, ending in, "and a thirty per cent probability of small children asking for chocolate and chewing gum in the streets during daylight hours."

Amusingly, one earlier commenter implied that one has to be an American citizen to fly a Hercules. Not true at all. While it is American designed and built, the aircraft is operated by so many countries, including my own, that the list itself has its own Wikipedia article and I don't care to count its members. One of the best summaries I saw of all the missions it can perform was in a magazine article on the use of the C-130 in Australia.

I have more information on those turns, including detailed pre-paradrop checklists and a description of approaching an aerodrome in IMC while staying inside the secured perimeter. I'm sure there are a lot of tricks this thing can do that aren't documented anywhere. It's a versatile airplane that has performed all kinds of missions, all over the world for over fifty years. But I bet it's a bitch and a half to deice in the winter, and good luck finding hangar space for it where I'm going next.