|Thirteenth Hercules for the Air Component|
During the night of May 4th, 2006, a fire devastated hangar 40 of the aeronautical maintenance company Sabena Technics at Brussels-Airport involving the destruction of four aircraft, one of which was Belgian Air Component C-130H Hercules CH-02 which was present for routine maintenance. Fortunately an agreement was quickly found between the Air Component and its maintenance provider. With the allowances obtained from its insurances, Sabena Technics committed itself to find and provide the Belgian Air Force in the shortest delays with a second hand C-130 similar to the ten other Hercules operated by the Melsbroek based 15th Transport Wing. The final replacement convention was signed on January 11, 2007.
Lockheed C-130H Hercules CH-13 at the Melsbroek platform immediately prior to its first official flight with the Belgian Air Component.
Sabena Technics acquired a former Lockheed C-130E
of the USAF registered N130EV owned by the American civil airline
Evergreen (c/n 382-4047). Built in 1965 and immediately converted into
weather reconnaissance aircraft WC-130E (64-0552), this aircraft had a
less than ordinary military career operating from Guam in the Pacific
Ocean and later with the 53rd Weather Reconnaissance Squadron, in
received a minimum refurbishment by Sabena Technics personnel to make it
temporarily airworthy, N130EV left the
CH-13 on take off for the first offical military flight
A small surprise awaited the aviation enthusiasts. Once arrived in its new home country, this future 13th Belgian military Hercules was attributed the registration CH-14 in total contradiction with the Belgian Air Force’s practice for the registration of its aircraft since decades. The press and specialized websites did not fail to divulge the obviously superstitious influence of this decision, seemingly without success. Hercules CH-14 finally left the workshops on October 3, 2008 and started it’s flight-test programme in its new Belgian military livery. The Hercules suffered a last draw-back when during an internal quality control at Sabena Technics, the machine was identified as one of two aircraft which suffered from an act of seemingly sabotage. The damage including non critical elements of the aircraft such as cut intercom cables and graffiti inside and outside of the fuselage and could be linked to frustrations generated by the recent advertisement of the lay-off of 371 of the 1.100 members of the personnel with Sabena Technics within the framework of a vast reorganization.
Finally, on March 17th 2009 came the great day:
the handing-over by Sabena Technics of the “new” aircraft to the Belgian
Air Component in the presence of Minister of Defence Pieter De Crem
(CD&V) and military authorities .… but this time provided with the
suitable registration: CH-13. A return to common sense required by the
staff of the Air Component. As Air Component Commander,
Lieutenant-General aviator Van Caelenberge entrusted us; “I hardly liked
the image of a superstitious air force in the 21st century”. It goes
without saying that the arrival of this additional Hercules - within a
fleet reduced since three years to ten transporters (see table) – is a
much welcomed addition for the Belgian armed forces currently committed
on many theatres of operations such as Afghanistan, ex-Yugoslavia,
Lebanon and Central Africa. Initially the CH-13 will be used only for
Minister of Defence Pieter De Crem (CD&V) admiring the newest Air Force workhorse.
The C-130 Hercules of the Component Air should remain in service until at least 2018 when its replacement by 7 Airbus A400M transporters is planned to start. However and because of the delays incurred by the program of the new European transport aircraft, it could be that the last operational Hercules does reach the half-century of service in Belgian colours.
CH-13 at very low-level over the Beauvechain airbase runway looking down down on an F-16AM fighter which just landed in the framework of exercise "Deployed Falcon"
Minister De Crem in the cockpit of CH-13 at low level near Diest.
The end of a successful inaugural flight.
The pilots of CH-13 together with Minister De Crem and military and civil personalities.
Lockheed C-130E/H Hercules of Component the Belgian Air (13 aircraft)
The first twelve Hercules were delivered new as model C-130H type 382C-25D
© Vincent Pirard/Aviascribe (March 2009)
Daniel Brackx & Serge Van Heertum (SBAP)
Last updated 23/12/11 14:21 Daniel Brackx