Airmen gathered for a ceremony here May 1 to say goodbye to the first C-130E Hercules ever produced and the last one to be retired.
Tail No. 61-2358 will retire to Edwards AFB where it will be used as a static display after more than 50 years of service. Leaders and Airmen from three different wings and civic leaders from the local community in attendance to honor the plane prior to its final flight.
"This plane represents a milestone in the history of the C-130 and the history of the Air Force," said Col. Brian Robinson, the 19th Airlift Wing commander. "This is the most capable, tough as nails aircraft, and it's been to every remote corner of the planet, including Antarctica."
Robinson said the aircraft had a distinguished career that fittingly began here. The aircraft flew its first operational mission Sept. 24, 1957, by the mandate of President Dwight Eisenhower, to airlift 1,200 paratroopers to enforce the desegregation of Little Rock Central High School. The mission was carried out successfully, the first of thousands upon thousands 2358 would be used for in its five-decade long career.
"She never rested; she did her mission to the end," Robinson said.
Fred Ross, the vice president of C-130 programs at Lockheed Martin, said the aircraft had a distinguished career, from its first flight to its twilight run to retirement.
"C-130s always carry the load," he said.
Ross said the plane's five decades in the sky is a rare sight, and that no other aircraft has been in continuous production for 57 years like the C-130.
Tail No. 2358 is the last of the C-130E models to be retired from the active duty fleet and is slated to be replaced by the newer J models. The J models are a huge leap in technology, Ross said, but will still be a Hercules in the C-130 tradition, a tradition exemplified by 2358.
"I'm proud of 2358 ... it's been involved in humanitarian airlifts all over the world and contributed numerous air drops in the lands of Afghanistan and Iraq. Most of all I'm proud it was built for (the Air Force) and served (the Air Force) well for more than 50 years."
Robinson said the retirement of 2358 was a great occasion to celebrate the history of combat airlift and to recognize the efforts of the local community.
"Today we not only recognize those who fly and maintain our aircraft, but also the local community and their leaders," he said. "Without your support these planes would not fly."
by Staff Sgt. Jacob Barreiro
19th Airlift Wing Public Affairs
Source: US Air Force
Date: May 3, 2012