Air Force Grounds More Than 100 Older-Model C-130s for Faulty Propellers

October 3, 2022Matt White
A C-130H Hercules aircraft assigned to the 757th Airlift Squadron sits on the flightline, July 22, 2020, at Youngstown Air Reserve Station in Vienna, Ohio. Unlike newer C-130Js, C-130Hs have four metal propellers on each engine. Air Force Photo by Senior Airman Christina Russo.

A C-130H Hercules aircraft assigned to the 757th Airlift Squadron sits on the flightline, July 22, 2020, at Youngstown Air Reserve Station in Vienna, Ohio. Unlike newer C-130Js, C-130Hs have four metal propellers on each engine. Air Force Photo by Senior Airman Christina Russo.

The Air Force has flown C-130s for almost as long as the Air Force has flown. The service put the first C-130 Hercules into service in 1956, just nine years after the Air Force broke away from the Army as its own branch of the armed services.

In the Air Force inventory, only the B-52 — which arrived a year earlier — has been flying longer.

But about 100 of the transport planes are now grounded after structural weaknesses were found in the propellers on an older version, the C-130H. Most Air Force C-130s are now C-130J models, which began coming online in the 1990s. But H-models — the design of which dates to the mid-1970s — make up about one-fifth of the Air Force's Hercules fleet.


A C-130H nicknamed "Stickers," assigned to the 189th Airlift Wing, on Oct. 27, 2018, at Little Rock Air Force Base, Arkansas. US Air National Guard photo by Master Sgt. Jessica Condit.

According to an Air Force release, the grounded aircraft are mostly C-130H cargo planes, but they include several with specialized roles: eight MC-130H Combat Talon special operations aircraft, seven EC-130H Compass Call electronic warfare aircraft, and one TC-130H trainer.

The grounding was originally reported on the Air Force amn/nco/snco Facebook page.

A formal "technical order" was issued through the Air Force's maintenance community that all C-130Hs with a particular model of metal blades — called the 54H60 — were to be grounded after cracks were found in several during inspections.

Blade failure is a catastrophic danger for prop-driven aircraft like the C-130, particularly for those with metal blades like the 54H60. A Marine Corps KC-130, flying as Yanky 72, disintegrated midflight at 20,000 feet over Mississippi in 2017 when a cracked metal blade came off during flight. The blade sliced through the aircraft, shattering it into three large pieces and killing all 16 on board.


An upgraded C-130H from the 133rd Airlift Wing is parked on the flight line in St. Paul, Minnesota, May 11, 2022. The eight-bladed propellers replaced the four-bladed propellers on older models. US Air National Guard photo by Amy M. Lovgren.

The Navy and Marines grounded their fleets of C-130s for more than a year following the accident until all props had been checked.

Newer C-130Js fly with propellers that have six and sometimes eight carbon-fiber blades, which in a mishap will shatter into mostly harmless pieces. The carbon-fiber blades allowed a Marine KC-130, flying as Raider 50, to survive a prop failure in 2020 over California that was similar to the fatal 2017 mishap.

In that flight, a midair collision with an F-35 sheered off nearly all the blades on both engines on the right side of a Marine KC-130J. As the carbon-fiber blades shattered into innumerable tiny pieces, those that hit the fuselage mostly bounced off or penetrated with just bullet-hole-sized damage, too small to imperil the whole plane, which landed safely.

Read Next: ‘The Worst Flight Ever’: Inside an Unforgettable Mission Into Hurricane Ian

Matt White
Matt White

Matt White is a former senior editor for Coffee or Die Magazine. He was a pararescueman in the Air Force and the Alaska Air National Guard for eight years and has more than a decade of experience in daily and magazine journalism.

More from Coffee or Die Magazine
dear jack mandaville
Dear Jack: Which Historic Battle Would You Want To Witness?

Ever wonder how much Jack Mandaville would f*ck sh*t up if he went back in time? The American Revolution didn't even see him coming.

west point time capsule
West Point Time Capsule Yields Centuries-Old Coins

A nearly 200-year-old West Point time capsule that at first appeared to yield little more than dust contains hidden treasure, the US Military Academy said.

Ouija Board aircraft carrier
Low-Tech ‘Ouija Boards’ Have Helped Aircraft Carriers Operate for Decades

Since the 1920s, a low-tech tabletop replica of an aircraft carrier’s flight deck has been an essential tool in coordinating air operations.

Army vs. Navy mascot
The Navy Goat vs. the Army Mule: Mascot Origin Stories

For nearly as long as the Army-Navy football rivalry, the academies’ hoofed mascots have stared each other down from the sidelines. Here are their stories.

ukraine long-range weapon
Zelenskyy Says Ukraine Has Developed a Long-Range Weapon, a Day After Strike Deep Inside Russia

Zelenskyy said on his Telegram channel the weapon was produced by Ukraine’s Ministry of Strategic Industries but gave no other details.

7 of the Best Movie Ambush Scenes of All Time

Ambushes make for great action scenes. Here are seven of the best to ever grace the big screen.

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, center, with his daughter, center right, reportedly named Ju Ae, review the honor guard during their visit to the navy headquarter in North Korea
North Korea Launches Missile Toward Sea After US Flies Bomber During Drills

South Korea’s Joint Chiefs of Staff said in a statement that the launch occurred Wednesday but gave no further details, such as how far the missile flew.

  • About Us
  • Privacy Policy
  • Careers
Contact Us
Contact Us
© 2023 Coffee or Die Magazine. All Rights Reserved