The first Polish C-130 E Herkules. 24 March 2009.

Powidz 2009-03-24

Article and photos by Mr. Piotr Łysakowski.

Piotr Łysakowski.

A short question about two weeks ago - are you flying? What can be answered to such a question? - Of course! Then uncertainty almost to the last day, or even rather certainty that nothing will come of it. And here's a surprise. We arrived in Ramstein on Sunday evening. A small town just below the French border and next to it the gigantic Ramstein AFB base. Suffice it to say that about 50,000 people serve there. Big city. The hotel is outside the base, 20 minutes walk to the main gate. From the garden in front of our window, you could easily spotting. We are very close to the threshold of the runway, C-130 different versions, C-17 and C-5, take off every now and then. If there were still fighters ... We go to sleep after tasting local beers. In the morning, check in at the Ramstein AFB gate. We are awaited there by the spokesman of the Captain Base. John W. Ross. A young, constantly smiling officer in the latest field (pixel) uniform of the US Army. Nice clothes. We make passes, put them in passports (the base is American territory, entry was handled by the American embassy) and we go. The base is a well-organized city. With all the necessary infrastructure, own traffic police, fire brigade, ambulance, cinemas, theater, bars, own newspaper, TV and radio. The applicable currency is $. You can only watch the euro.

We learn that the purpose of our trip is already on the apron. Flew in at night, the crew sleeps off the trip. We're going to the record. This is where formalism and order, which is unusual in our conditions, make itself felt. We can watch our Hercules. The shooting issue is now being cleared up. First impressions - it does not look like an old machine. The facelift is really thorough, especially when compared to the other C-130 E standing next to it. It proudly presents itself in the color used on the C-17s rather than the Hercules, a pity the chessboards are still covered.

While waiting for the decision to photograph our first one, we go to another apron. Here we can photograph at will. On the album a dozen or so Hercules, you can see the tooth of time, you can only guess how many stories behind them. You can probably trace them to the numbers. Among the numerous versions of the E there is a raisin. The newest Hercules C-130 J, easily recognizable by its 6-blade propellers. An icy wind blows, we take shelter for a while inside a good machine. We are watching the pilot's cabin, cargo hold. You can see that the equipment is worn out. But still ready for new tasks.

C-130 Herkules. 2009 year. Photo by Piotr Łysakowski
C-130 Herkules. 2009 year. Photo by Piotr Łysakowski

C-130 Herkules. 2009 year. Photo by Piotr Łysakowski
C-130 Herkules. 2009 year. Photo by Piotr Łysakowski

C-130 Herkules. 2009 year. Photo by Piotr Łysakowski
C-130 Herkules. 2009 year. Photo by Piotr Łysakowski

C-130 Herkules. 2009 year. Photo by Piotr Łysakowski
C-130 Herkules. 2009 year. Photo by Piotr Łysakowski

We were frozen to the bone. Spring has not come here yet. We're going to warm up with American coffee. I will ignore its qualities with diplomatic silence. Nice moments in one of the base cafes in the company of a spokesman and military reporter from the base newspaper and website. We are captivated by the kindness and various friendly gestures of all the soldiers we meet. Actually, from privates to senior officers, no one passes us without a greeting, a smile, or the question of whether there is anything we can do to help. The military men flex proudly, salute vigorously, as in the movies. All regular haircuts and regular clothing. In a word - the army. Finally, the expected meeting with the Polish crew. Roughly rested, satisfied with the flight across the Atlantic. Everything went smoothly, the machine did a great job. The commander of Lt. Mieczysław Gaudyn radiating his smile tells about the values ​​of our Hercules. We leave the building and go to the desired photo session at our "bird". This time we can take a close look at it and photograph it. At the same time, the crew makes the necessary inspections ... and poses for a photo.

From the left: ship engineer Sgt. Andrzej Kozera, 2nd pilot Capt. Krzysztof Szymaniec, commander of Lt. Mieczysław Gaudyn, loadmaster chor. Mateusz Rybus. The navigator, Lt. Łukasz Chwiejczak, was not keen on the photo.

C-130 Herkules. 2009 year. Photo by Piotr Łysakowski
C-130 Herkules. 2009 year. Photo by Piotr Łysakowski

After an exhausting session - the freezing wind kept knocking something over - another short throw of the lens around Base. The base movement is very impressive. No wonder, it's the largest US base in Europe, after all. Transshipment center for troops and equipment going to and from Iraq and Afghanistan. Hence the C-5 and C-17 landing and taking off every now and then, and chartered wide-body "passengers". Below are a few photos of the above-mentioned devices. Unfortunately, there was no consent for special photo sessions devoted to machines other than Hercules. Photos only from long distances.

2009 year. Photo by Piotr Łysakowski
2009 year. Photo by Piotr Łysakowski

2009 year. Photo by Piotr Łysakowski
2009 year. Photo by Piotr Łysakowski

2009 year. Photo by Piotr Łysakowski
2009 year. Photo by Piotr Łysakowski

2009 year. Photo by Piotr Łysakowski
2009 year. Photo by Piotr Łysakowski

We're going to the hotel. In the town, outside the base, there is also an American atmosphere. Car dealerships offer BMWs with an American flag stuck in them, hot-dog booths provide on their ads that hot dogs like in New York. We sit down in a Chinese restaurant, only American soldiers pass through it. There are also pixel uniforms in our hotel. We are going to sleep. In the morning at 7.00 we are to check in at the gate.

Tuesday, we get up at 6.00, shower, quick breakfast and go to Base. A capt spokesman is waiting for us at the gate. John W. Ross. We're going straight to our Hercules. The weather was good, the wind weakened considerably, only the bitter cold can be felt. After a while, our crew and the crew of American instructors appear. They will also pack on board. They fly to Powidz for a few months, they will continue to train Polish crews on the spot, on the same terms as the Americans stay in Krzesiny and Łask. Before we take to the air, however, we spend a few hours on the record. We were frozen to the bone. At that time, the last inspection, loading and ... extremely moving discovery of the Polish Chessboard on the right wing of the C-130 is taking place. As in the case of the efs, the plane still belongs to the USAF, so there is no question of flying in full Polish designation. Only such a compromise. Before departure, we are visited by Polish pilot general Sławomir Kałuziński, who is still staying in Ramstein. Nice and cordial meeting. Common photo and ... up!

C-130 Herkules. 2009 year. Photo by Piotr Łysakowski
C-130 Herkules. 2009 year. Photo by Piotr Łysakowski

C-130 Herkules. 2009 year. Photo by Piotr Łysakowski
C-130 Herkules. 2009 year. Photo by Piotr Łysakowski

We're packing inside. Not much space, in the hold, right behind the pilot's cabin, which you enter via the stairs, the first package - a spare engine. You can walk sideways on both sides of it, and there we also find places to sit, on the right "side", each at his own window. Dale, roughly in the middle of the hold, a huge pallet with lots of packages, the crews' luggage behind it, a spare propeller leaning against the ramp at the end. There is an atmospheric half-dark inside. Small spotlights near the ceiling, between the coils of pipes and cables. In addition, the wonderful smell of kerosene. Apparently, Hercules smells specific, you can recognize each Hercules by its smell. So said Col. Gaudyn. We find that it is so.

The engines start up, it is impossible to talk anymore. We get stoppers from the American loading operator. Other life. We move slowly, the plane beeps beautifully, we taxi to the take-off next to the big C-17 and C-5. We stand at the end of the runway and after a short run we are where we usually direct our eyes. Lovely. We soar above our hotel. After a while we are above the clouds. Actually, shortly after lifting off the ground, we can unbuckle the seat belts and start spinning around the plane.

C-130 Herkules. 2009 year. Photo by Piotr Łysakowski
C-130 Herkules. 2009 year. Photo by Piotr Łysakowski

C-130 Herkules. 2009 year. Photo by Piotr Łysakowski
C-130 Herkules. 2009 year. Photo by Piotr Łysakowski

After climbing the right ceiling, the crew invited us to the cockpit. We entered it one by one, each for a time. I spent a good 20 minutes there. Impressions - easy to imagine. Chad. Here you can see how fantastic the large glazing of the pilot's cabin is. Lots of light and dreamlike views. At the controls of two pilots - Lt. Mieczysław Gaudyn, our commander and an American in the second seat. Between them, behind the pilots' seats, the flight engineer is sitting a little higher, and behind him, by the right wall, the navigator. There is a bunk bed on the rear wall of the cabin - probably useful for long flights.

C-130 Herkules. 2009 year. Photo by Piotr Łysakowski
C-130 Herkules. 2009 year. Photo by Piotr Łysakowski

C-130 Herkules. 2009 year. Photo by Piotr Łysakowski
C-130 Herkules. 2009 year. Photo by Piotr Łysakowski

Meanwhile, merrily in the hold. Not everything can be told :)

More than an hour of travel has already passed, we are slowly starting to look at our efs. We lowered the flight. You can see snow-covered fields and forests. The weather doesn't spoil you.

2009 year. Photo by Piotr Łysakowski
2009 year. Photo by Piotr Łysakowski

We realized earlier that we can forget about good shots of the eFs. The thick, layered panes in the hold windows lost their pure transparency a long time ago. After lowering the flight, there was still fogging. As if that was not enough, the efas appeared just before landing, when we were walking from one snow cloud to another. Hence the photos poor. But the impressions fully compensated for this deficiency.

2009 year. Photo by Piotr Łysakowski
2009 year. Photo by Piotr Łysakowski

2009 year. Photo by Piotr Łysakowski
2009 year. Photo by Piotr Łysakowski

2009 year. Photo by Piotr Łysakowski
2009 year. Photo by Piotr Łysakowski

Efy accompanied us to the entrance to the straight approach and to the first pass over the runway. Here I expected that due to the raging weather we would sit down quickly and calmly. Nothing could be more wrong. Hercules has shown that it is not an ordinary truck. Probably many of you saw it from the airport apron. I have no words to express my impressions from inside the plane, especially from sharp turns. It was fantastic.

C-130 Herkules. 2009 year. Photo by Piotr Łysakowski
C-130 Herkules. 2009 year. Photo by Piotr Łysakowski

C-130 Herkules. 2009 year. Photo by Piotr Łysakowski
C-130 Herkules. 2009 year. Photo by Piotr Łysakowski

We sat down softly, though with considerable speed. Then taxiing ... and a long wait in the plane for a good time to leave. We covered 900 km from Powidz and Ramstein in approx. 2 hours. Then you know it all.

C-130 Herkules. 2009 year. Photo by Piotr Łysakowski
C-130 Herkules. 2009 year. Photo by Piotr Łysakowski

We now have the first Polish Hercules. We are waiting for four more. This is a special machine. 50 years of service around the world puts it in a unique place in the history of aviation. May the C-130 E also serve us happily for many years. For the glory of the Motherland!

We would like to express our heartfelt thanks to Lt. Mieczysław Gaudyn, commander of the 14th Transport Aviation Squadron in Powidz, the entire crew and all "good spirits" at the Air Force Command, 2nd Tactical Air Wing and 31st Tactical Air Base for the opportunity to participate in these beautiful, historic moments.

Written by Piotr "Bzik" Łysakowski