WARNER ROBINS -- A historic C-130E made its final landing at Robins Air Force Base on Tuesday, with a Houston County native serving on the crew.
The aircraft, which was part of a dramatic hostage rescue in 1964, is headed for the Museum of Aviation. The plane was one of the oldest C-130s still flying, having flown hundreds of missions, according to museum spokesman Bob Dubiel.
Its most famous was on Nov. 23, 1964, just seven months after it went into service. It was part of an operation to rescue 2,000 civilians held by rebels in the Congo city of Stanleyville.
After dropping off 300 paratroopers who overpowered the rebels and freed the hostages, the plane was among the first to fly civilians out of the danger zone. Rebel forces shot the aircraft on takeoff, puncturing the left-wing fuel tank. The pilot flew it 800 miles to safety with one engine shut down. The crew members received the award for most meritorious flight of the year.
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The plane’s final crew included navigator Maj. John Fay Jr., a 1997 graduate of Houston County High School. He is now a C-130 trainer in Little Rock, Ark.
“I’ve known the museum here for years, so it’s pretty neat to be able to bring the airplane back to be on display for the future,” he said.
He was greeted by his parents -- local residents who are both retired from the Air Force and hadn’t seen their son in almost a year. His mother, Cathy Fay, was an Air Force nurse, and his father, John Fay Sr., was a KC-135 pilot. John Fay Jr. also has a brother who is a C-17 pilot and a sister who is in the Navy.
“That’s all they ever wanted to do, was to be in the military,” his mother said.
Museum Director Ken Emery said the aircraft will be an important addition to the collection. It will be one of two C-130s on display, with the other being an AC-130 gunship. The one that arrived Tuesday was a cargo hauler, which Emery said is more representative of the overall mission of the C-130 fleet.
“We always wanted to get a C-130 that was a straight cargo plane that had a lot of history in it, and this one has a lot of history in it,” Emery said.
Maintainers at Robins will de-fuel the plane and remove the wings. In a couple of weeks it will be moved to the museum and should be on display in about a month, Emery said.
As an E model, the aircraft is among the oldest C-130s still flying. John Fay Jr. said he has flown on E’s for the past six years and has high confidence in the safety and ability of the older C-130s.
He noted they recently took a C-130E to an aerial rodeo and finished second to a plane that had just come off the assembly line.
To contact writer Wayne Crenshaw, call 256-9725.