Skip to comments.The FReeper Foxhole Remembers The Four Horsemen (1957-1960) - Jan. 31st, 2005
Posted on 01/30/2005 11:14:57 PM PST by SAMWolf
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Soon after the introduction of the Lockheed C-130, four U.S. Air Force pilots came up with a great way to demonstrate just how maneuverable and powerful the new transport was.
The C-130A Hercules entered service with the Air Force's 463rd Troop Carrier Wing, a Tactical Air Command (TAC) unit, in December 1956. Within a few months the former Fairchild C-119 pilots of the wing's 774th Troop Carrier Squadron, the first such unit to be equipped with the Hercules, had become quite proficient with their new aircraft. Most of the aircraft commanders were veteran pilots, many with careers that dated back to the Korean War, when they had flown Douglas C-47s and Curtiss C-46s and C-119s in combat. All were impressed with the tremendous maneuverability of the new plane, the result of hydraulically boosted flight controls that gave the 125,200-pound transport the handling characteristics of a fighter. Powered by four Allison T-56 turboprop engines, the C-130A was also blessed with tremendous performance. It was only natural that many of its pilots would experiment to see just how good the plane really was--and how good they were at flying it.
In early 1957 four aircrews from the 774th Troop Carrier Squadron, the "Green Weasels," were at Fort Campbell, Ky., for a week of dropping troops of the 101st Airborne Division. One day high winds led to a cancellation of the day's drops and a mission stand-down for the crews. With time to kill and their aircraft ready to go, the four pilots--Captains Gene Chaney, Jim Aiken, David Moore and Bill Hatfield--decided to practice some formation flying. They took off and headed out over the fields of Kentucky and Tennessee, where they started moving closer and closer together in their formation. Next they returned to the airfield at Campbell and made several low-altitude passes down the runway, still in tight formation. Suddenly, an idea was born: Why not practice until they got really adept with the planes, and then go around to military bases and put on performances for the troops?
At the end of the week the foursome went back to their home base at Ardmore, Okla., and began working on a routine. Some 500 miles to the east, the men of the 314th Troop Carrier Wing at Sewart Air Force Base in Tennessee were anxiously awaiting the arrival of their own brand-new C-130s, all set to become the second Air Force unit to equip with the new transport. The four 774th pilots proposed a plan to the TAC brass: Let the four pilots and crews who had been practicing formation flying take four C-130s and fly to Sewart, to show the men of the 314th just what kind of airplane they were getting. TAC Headquarters approved the plan, and the new aerial demonstration team was off and running. At first they referred to themselves as the "Thunder Weasels," a combination of the animal on the 774th's squadron patch and the famous Thunderbirds aerial demonstration team, but they eventually settled on the "Four Horsemen" after Coach Knute Rockne's legendary backfield on Notre Dame's 1924 football team. They put on a show for the Sewart people, who were suitably impressed.
As the men grew more and more proficient with their maneuvers, they became enthusiastic about becoming an officially recognized aerial demonstration team. The four pilots began researching Air Force technical orders, safety standards and procedures to find out how to obtain official recognition. At length their efforts paid off, with TAC officially sanctioning their status as an aerial demonstration team.
While the C-130 might look ungainly to the uninitiated, it was really a highly maneuverable airplane, particularly for a transport. The C-130A, for example, was capable of using 2,700-foot landing strips--remarkably short for an airplane that size. When the Horsemen demonstrated the C-130's short-field takeoff performance, they did so in a close diamond formation. Led by Moore and sometimes by Chaney, who served as the team captain, the four planes would taxi onto the runway and form a diamond formation. The maneuver called for the four transports to begin rolling at two-second intervals, although Aviation Week magazine pilot-editor Robert Stanfield, who flew with them in 1959, said it seemed like they all started rolling at once. On that occasion the reporter was flying in the "slot" airplane, the best vantage point from which to observe the Horsemen in action. Thanks to the prop-wash from the three preceding airplanes, the slot airplane, usually flown by Bill Hatfield, would get off the ground first. Hatfield would hold his airspeed down to 100 knots until the other airplanes were airborne. The Horsemen would retract gear and flaps on a signal from the lead plane and begin a sharp climb at 120 knots, achieving better than a 4,000-foot-per-minute rate of climb that would put them over the end of a 10,000-foot runway at 1,500 feet. Normal troop carrier procedures called for 15-second takeoff intervals between airplanes.
Once in the air, the Four Horsemen would perform a series of intricate maneuvers at altitudes ranging from just above the runway to 3,000 feet. They flew their diamond really tight. According to Aviation Week's Stanfield, the slot plane's nose was held as close as seven feet from the leader's tail. Because of the downwash from the propellers, each of the following aircraft flew slightly higher than the one in front. Each pilot would try to fly right "on top of the bubble." The slot airplane would be the highest in the formation, its windshield level with the top one-third of the lead airplane's tail fin. The noses of the two wingmen were in line with a row of rivets that ran the length of the lead airplane's wings. Dropping down into the wash of the leading airplanes could be dangerous. In one instance slot pilot Hatfield was flying an airplane that had a "Bulldog" winch in the back, standard on all TAC C-130s at the time. The tie-downs that secured the winch were evidently loose, and when Hatfield accidentally dropped into the prop wash of the airplanes ahead of him, the resulting turbulence caused the winch to rise above the floor of the airplane. As the turbulence went from negative to positive G-forces, the winch came back down with such momentum that it knocked a hole in the cargo compartment floor.
The team alternated between different formations. The arrow was a line-astern formation in which each airplane was tucked in right behind and slightly above the one before it. From the arrow they would go to the arrowhead, as the two trailing airplanes moved to the side of the line and took formation in line with each other, tucked in on the number two airplane. They also flew echelon formations, and ended their show with a bomb burst: The lead and number three aircraft would break high and to the left while numbers two and four broke to the right. They then rejoined in the diamond and returned to the airfield for a formation landing, moving into an echelon over the runway, then doing a tactical pitch-out to come back around for landing. The first plane would still be on the runway when the slot man touched down. Their show was as impressive as any put on by fighter pilots, and perhaps even more so considering the size and weight of the planes.
The Horsemen brief before a flight. L-R Capt. Gene Chaney, Capt. Bill Hatfield, Capt. Jim Akin and Capt. David Moore
No particular aircraft were assigned to the Four Horsemen. Each crew drew whatever plane happened to be available on the flight line at Ardmore, or at Sewart after the 463rd moved there to join the 314th shortly after the latter wing converted to the Hercules. The two wings made up the muscle of TAC's 839th Air Division, which was also based at Sewart. The demonstration pilots flew the same training and operational missions as the other pilots in the two C-130 wings.
Very early on, the C-130 demonstrated its ability to fly on three and even two engines without a significant loss of performance. In fact, a Lockheed test crew took off from Florida, shut down the aircraft's outboard engines and flew all the way to California at low level on two engines. The airplane was so overpowered that crews routinely shut down the outboard engines on some flights to conserve fuel.
You're welcome, Jet Jaguar
Odd that I am vertical and mobile at this point in time.
Usually I'm in a semi-concious torpor.
I thought the same thing while reading that.
Good morning EGC!!
How's it going??
BTW, for those who use "My Yahoo" for their information. Did you know that you can update to a newer version of it. I did this morning. It's really cool.
On this Day In History
Birthdates which occurred on January 31:
1601 Pieter de Bloot Dutch landscape painter
1623 François-Xavier de Laval Montmorency, consecrated the first bishop of Québec Canada in 1674
1734 Robert Morris merchant (signed Declaration of Independence)
1797 Franz Peter Schubert Lichtenthal Austria, composer (Unfinished Symphony)
1810 Daniel Ruggles Brigadier General (Confederate Army), died in 1897
1812 John Randolph Tucker Capt (Confederate Navy), died in 1883
1817 Antony Winkler Prins Dutch writer (Groiler Encyclopaedia)
1818 William Raine Peck Brigadier General (Confederate Army), died in 1871
1868 Theodore William Richards chemist (atomic weights, Nobel-1914)
1872 Zane Grey American West novelist (Riders of the Purple Sage, Spirit of the Border)
1881 Irving Langmuir physical chemist/colloid researcher/inventor (tungsten filament lamp/Nobel 1932)
1886 Alfonso Lopez Colombia, statesman (President UN security council-1948)
1892 Eddie Cantor New York City NY, comedian (Eddie Cantor Comedy Theater)
1903 Gardner Cowles Iowa, publisher/founder (Look Magazine)
1903 Tallulah Bankhead Huntsville AL, actress (Lifeboat, Die Die Darling)
1905 John Henry O'Hara Pottsville PA, novelist (Butterfield 8, Pal Joey, Appointment at Samarra)
1914 "Jersey" Joe Walcott heavyweight boxing champ (1951-52)
1915 Thomas Merton France, Trappist monk/poet/essayist (7 Storey Mt)
1915 Garry Moore [Thomas Garrison Morfit], Baltimore MD, TV host (Garry Moore Show, I've Got a Secret)
1919 Jackie Robinson Georgia, 1st black major league baseball player (Dodgers)
1920 Stewart L Udall St Johns AZ, US Secretary of Interior (1961-69)
1921 Carol Channing Seattle WA, actress (Gentlemen Prefer Blondes, Hello Dolly)
1921 John Agar Chicago IL, actor (Fort Apache, Sands of Iwo Jima)
1921 Mario Lanza Philadelphia PA, actor/singer (Great Caruso, Toast of New Orleans)
1923 Norman Mailer New Jersey, New York City NY mayoral candidate/novelist (Naked & the Dead)
1925 Benjamin Hooks civil rights leader
1931 Ernie "Mr Cubs" Banks Chicago Cubs, Hall-of-Famer (1st baseman)
1937 Philip Glass Baltimore MD, composer (Einstein on the Beach)
1937 Steve Karmen Bronx NY, jingle writer (I Love NY, This Bud's for You)
1937 Suzanne Pleshette New York City NY, actress (The Birds, Emily-Bob Newhart Show)
1938 Beatrix Wilhelmina Armgard queen of Netherlands (1980- )
1938 James G Watt Colorado, US Secretary of Interior (1981-83)
1940 Stuart Margolin Davenport IA, actor (Pockford Files, Love American Style)
1941 Richard A Gephardt (Representative-D-MO, 1977- )
1944 Charley Musselwhite blues musician (Stand Back, Louisiana Fog)
1947 Nolan Ryan pitcher (Mets, Angels, Astros) (7 no-hitters, 5,714 Ks)
1951 Phil Manzanera rock guitarist (The Doors)
1956 Johnny Rotten [John Lydon], rocker (Sex Pistols-God Save the Queen)
1971 Brandi Sherwood Miss Idaho-USA (1997, 2nd, succeeded Brook Lee)
Thanks EG. I do use My Yahoo. I'm wondering why I didn't see an email from them. Hmmmmm. Let me go check it out.
Good morning folks, I hope everyone had a great weekend.
The sun is finally shining for more than a day here in sunny So. Cal.
THE TET OFFENSIVE -Jan. 31 1968
Morning PE. LOL! I see Darksheare behind today's Flag-O-Gram.
That is odd for a Monday. ;-)
That is odd for a Monday. ;-)
Add that's just the Federal Tax, throw in State, Local, City, tags, licenses, tolls, utility taxes and all the "fees" we pay and we might as well just hand over our checks.