Wednesday, March 14, 2007

TOP STORY >>C-130J makes LRAFB landing

Leader staff writer

Fifty years after the 463rd Airlift Group received the Air Force’s very first C-130, the 41st Airlift Squadron at Little Rock Air Force Base received the first active-duty, combat-ready C-130J at a ceremony on base Tuesday afternoon. The 41st Airlift Squadron, which moved here from Pope Air Force Base in North Carolina as part of base realignment, is now part of the 463rd Airlift Group.

Aircraft No. 06-4631 will be used in combat operations around the world. Seven other ultra-modern C-130Js with 314th Airlift Wing are used for training at the base. Gen. Duncan McNabb, a four-star general and commander of Air Mobility Command at Scott Air Force Base in Illinois, presented the “super Hercules” to the base, adding to LRAFB’s legacy of providing worldwide support capability when and where it is required.

The 41st AS, along with the 463rd Airlift Maintenance Squadron, will be home for the new aircraft, which cost $65 million each.

McNabb piloted the new aircraft from the Lockheed Martin plant in Mariana, Ga., aided by the pilot, Lt. Col. Orlando Martinez; co-pilot, Lt. Col. Timothy Lambert; loadmaster, SSgt. Francessco Ventura, and flight crew chiefs, TSgt. Terry Fitzgerald and Senior Airman John Wetta.

“Isn’t it beautiful?” McNabb asked those in attendance about the new J model. “I don’t think I screwed it up, but any problems were from before I got in it and are Lockheed’s,” he joked. McNabb presented Fitzgerald with the key to the plane, saying it was the crew chief who really owns the aircraft and keeps it flying.

LRAFB has seven C-130J aircraft in the 314th Airlift Wing, but they are used solely for training. McNabb said Tuesday was a big day not only for Little Rock, but was also a big day for Air Mobility Command. “What a difference the J has made with its capabilities in the global war on terrorism,” he said.

Col. John Gomez, commander of the 463rd Airlift Group, called the ceremony “a momentous occasion.” “It doesn’t take long for me to point out that no one has more experience operating the C-130 Hercules than the organization that took the liberty of the very first production aircraft more than 50 years ago,” Gomez said.

“No one has a stronger track record at expanding the envelope and increasing our theater airlift capability to support the war effort than Little Rock Air Force Base,” he added. Gomez said the “quantum leap” in capability provided by the J model allows the Hercules to go higher, faster and farther, with more cargo, as the Air Force continues to respond to crises around the world.

“There are challenges ahead, and our determination will undoubtedly be put to the test, but with the proof of the C-130 Hercules and the new C-130J Super Hercules, the 463rd Airlift Group looks forward to the future,” Gomez said. The 463rd Airlift Group has been the Air Force’s premier C-130 airlift wing for more than 50 years, and with the arrival of Air Mobility Command’s first C-130J, the men and women of the 463rd AG are now poised to continue the strong tradition of the Hercules’ excellence, said MSgt. Timothy Bonnoitt, ceremony narrator.

The 41st AS will stand up April 5 under the command of Lt. Col. Dan Tulley. The 463rd AG is a primary component of the global war on terrorism and the war in Iraq. It is are credited with taking more than 5,200 convoys off the Iraqi roads.
There are 2,300 Hercules at locations around the world. McNabb said.