On Friday, the 50-year service of Belgium’s legendary C-130H Hercules transport planes came to an end after a final landing at Zaventem airport.
The farewell salute was given by airport’s civilian fire service in the presence of members of the 15th Air Transport Wing along with dozens of fans and journalists, Belga News Agency reports.
The four-engined planes took part in all military or humanitarian operations carried out by the Belgian armed forces on four of the five continents for nearly 50 years. They have now finally made way for their successor, the A400M Airbus, known as Atlas.
Five of the eight A400M Airbus planes, ordered jointly with Luxembourg, are already in service.
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Both old and new planes flew in formation in the skies above Belgium during a flight organised for the press by the Air Wing, despite the poor weather conditions.
A long service history not without incident
Over the past half century, the C-130s were used for approximately 285,000 flying hours and made 199,500 landings. In total, they transported a total of 150,000 tonnes of freight and completed a distance equivalent to 3,900 flights around the world.
Belgium acquired a fleet of 12 C-130H planes, built by U.S. manufacturer Lockheed Martin, in the early 1970s. The planes were delivered between July 1972 and April 1973.
On 15 July 1996, one plane was lost in an accident above the Eindhoven Air Base in the south of the Netherlands; 34 of its 41 occupants died.
Another was destroyed in a fire in 2006 that occurred while it was undergoing major maintenance in a shed of the Sabena Technics company in Zaventem.
It was replaced in March 2009 by a second-hand plane – a former C-130E “Hurricane Fighter” from the U.S. Air Force.