Tuesday, December 22, 2020 – 02:00
It is the emblem of the Armed Forces transport plane, which transported passengers, coffins, humanitarian aid and the ‘treasure of the Odyssey’
The Air Force retires Hercules after almost half a century of service
With a bit of fog and waiting for some wind at its destination, the Hercules T-10/03 take off from Torrejón around 10 in the morning. This has been one of his last domestic flights, before the final flight to reach the destination where he will surely end his days. He was traveling with the dome of the Air Force as passengers, including the Chief of the Defense Staff (Jemad), who is also an aviator, and the Chief of the Air Staff (Jema).
For many of his passengers, and especially perhaps for the Jemad, General Miguel Angel Villaroya, this last trip to Zaragoza it was very symbolic. It was to celebrate the farewell act of the Hercules, the plane carries the armed forces for almost half a century and is retiring by the end of the year.
For General Villarroya it was probably the closing of a circle, because he was a pilot of these planes while he belonged to the Ala 31, the unit that pilots and maintains them. Of his nearly 10,000 flight hours, most have been piloting the Hercules. In fact, in his speech he said that he did not speak as chief of the defense staff, but “as the oldest member of the 31st Wing.”
There have been many tragedies that these planes have seen, many, many countries that have flown over and also many tons of aid that they have transported to different places. But as one of its mechanics recalled at the air base, “sometimes there are very cool missions.” As which? Well without going any further, bring the treasure of the Odyssey from Florida, which arrived loaded on two of these old planes.
For her, the replacement, the new A400, is undoubtedly a better plane, “but the Hercules has many things that are better, even if they are older.” She, used to it after more than 4,000 hours of flight, finds the seats / bench of the Hercules much more comfortable than those of the Airbus, for example.
Another of his mechanics, whom everyone knows as Garcia, He remembers stories of all kinds because he entered the 31st Wing in the 80s, but without a doubt he will never forget the day they collided in the air with a fighter plane, they lost a little more than six meters of wing and still they landed safely. “Or almost”, he adds, “because when the plane stopped it ended up on its side.” And the other plane also managed to land, by the way.
As soon as January comes to the Hercules, called Dumbo by the elephant in the patches of Wing 31, they will begin to travel towards their final destinations: Peru, Uruguay, Turkey and U.S. The first three countries will still reuse for a few years these planes that Spain acquired in the 70s and 80s and which could continue to operate, but are being replaced by the Airbus A400M, which have much more carrying capacity, are faster, fly higher and are also European.
Wing 31 already has nine A400, and the ninth was precisely delivered this Monday. He landed just after the farewell act of Hercules, who, as the Jema recalled, General See all he has accumulated more than 210,000 flight hours and “is already a legend.” So much so that it began its journey as a Spanish plane with The Green March, and has experienced events of all kinds, since the first international missions of Spain even the conflicts of the Balkans, Afghanistan O Iraq.
Its greatest tragedy was shortly after it began, when in 1980 one of them crashed in Gran Canaria and its 11 occupants died. General Salto recalled that he will never forget that accident, because at that time, being an aviator at the beginning of his career, he was stationed at the base of Cattle and participated in the search for the remains.
Apart from the planes sold to Peru, Turkey and Uruguay, the remaining minus one have been sold to a company in the United States, and will most likely be scrapped.
The last of them will still live here for many years … as a museum piece.
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