On October 30, 1963, the US Navy landed a KC-130F Hercules on the flight deck of the aircraft carrier USS Forrestal. The objective was to demonstrate the capacity of a super-COD, not to replace the C-1 Trader but to support CIA naval aviation operations… Today, the KC-130F Hercules remains the largest and largest aircraft to have landed and taken off from an aircraft carrier.
A Hercules with sea legs
On October 30, 1963, Lt. James H. Flatley and Lt. Com. WW Stovall performs a landing on the flight deck of the USS Forrestal (CV-59, Forrestal class). This landing goes down in the history of American naval aviation but also in the history of aeronautics: they were then piloting a KC-130F Hercules tactical transport plane. Borrowed from the Marine Corps, this version of the Hercules was modified to refuel USMC aircraft in flight. Surprisingly, the plane is very little modified:
- Modification of the nose gear to better absorb the shock of landing
- Addition of an anti-lock braking system (ABS)
- Removal of the fuel tank in the hold
- Changed the airspeed indicator, with calculations predicting a higher approach speed of only 3 knots above stall speed.
The Hercules is in no way equipped with a landing hook and is not modified to be catapulted.
Two types of landings were tested: landings in line with the aircraft carrier and classic landings on the “runway”. In order to help the crew of the Hercules to land “in a straight line”, the deck of the aircraft carrier had been painted with a dotted line diagramming the preferable location of the nose gear. The margin of error was small because this landing required approaching the aircraft carrier island, with an aircraft much less maneuverable than the jets of the time and with only 4.6 meters of error!
The capabilities of the Hercules astonish the US Navy: with a maximum load of 54.88 tonnes, the Hercules only needed 140.2 meters to land and 227 meters to take off. In total, 42 approaches were carried out, as well as 29 touch-and-gos, 21 landings with a complete stop, followed by 21 unassisted takeoffs.