Text: Serge Van Heertum - Pictures: Pierre Taquet, Serge Van Heertum, Others as mentioned - Translations: Marc Arys  ©sbap 2021
 
April 26, 2021, the day the Lockheed C-130H "Hercules", registered CH-13 (64-0552), retired as the 'museum beast' to the Golden Falcon/1st Wing Historical Center at Beauvechain airbase and into posterity.
The aircraft was welcomed to its new home by the base authorities and in the presence of Mrs Ludivine Dedonder, Minister of Defence, after a relatively short flight from Melsbroek (with a last salute to its home base) to Beauvechain.
After 25.740 flight hours, the CH-13 crew shut down the engines for the last time.
CH-13 is the only C-130H in the Belgian fleet that will be retained and managed by the War Heritage Institute (WHI), the others having been sold to Sabena Aerospace, a company now owned by the new Blueberry group and Blue Aerospace, a subsidiary of the American Heico group.
The government's decision to give the famous CH-13 to the 1st Wing Historical Center rather than leaving it at its original airbase at Melsbroek, in the hands of the Dakota Historical Center, has opened the door to much controversy and petitions. The aficionados of social networking have not failed to show their displeasure regarding this decision, which, historically speaking is, let's face it, a misstep. These discussions for or against the Beauvechain base have clearly turned into a linguistic and community pugilism. Poor Belgium!
And, as the Minister of Defence very well stressed, the Air Force is neither flemish nor specificaly french, this Force serves the country, serves Belgium, serves Belgian people.
The most important thing is that at least one example is preserved in Belgium and will be accessible to the public from June in theory.
Before moving on to the pictures of our contributor, we would like to point out that he went to the surroundings of the Beauvechain base to immortalize this last landing. It was the only way to present this event to our readers because once again the specialized aeronautical press was shunned and this is a pity since we (the specialized press) are a kind of media read all over the world (yes we are!) and so the image of our defence and our Air Force (let's not forget that we are also taxpayers) could be conveyed effectively and free of charge.
In the first part, we propose you a historical part concerning the CH-13, because let's not forget, within the Air Force, it is the one which had the most atypical career.
C-130 serial 64-0552 (LM Aero Contract T/V 4047) came out of the Lockheed Marietta factory as an "E" model in 1965, as part of a batch of 46 C-130E-LM Hercules ordered by the USAF.
Some sources indicate that the aircraft was immediately converted to a WC-130E, while others mention the modification after a few months. Unfortunately, the records for this period of 64-0552's life are timely quite imprecise.
The modifications to the WC-130E standard concerned, at the time, 3 aircraft of the initial batch (64-0552, 64-0553, 64-0554) and once modified at Warner-Robins Air Material Area (WRAMA), these were assigned to the Air Weather Service (AWS) whose primary missions were tropical storm reconnaissance with atmospheric sampling, rain formation, fog seeding and winter storm studies.
The first assignment of 64-552 was with the 54th WRS (Weather Reconnaissance Squandron) based at Andersen AFB, on the island of Guam.
In 1967, the 3 aircraft were returned to the original manufacturer Lockheed-Marietta for the addition of the atmospheric sampling system, and then returned to the 54th WRS where they remained until mid-1972.
For the next fifteen years 64-0552 passed through 53rd WRS and 55th WRS as required, but was always officially assigned to 54th WRS.
After the closure of 54th WRS in 1987, 64-0552 was permanently assigned to 53rd WRS at Keesler AFB in Mississippi.
In 1989, the six WC-130E's, including 64-0552, were further modified with the addition of the Improved Weather Recognition System (IWRS), which had finally reached operational status after three years of testing and evaluation. At the same time, the atmospheric sampling infrastructure was removed from these aircraft, ending their WC-130E capability forever. In 1991, the 53rd WRS was deactivated and 64-0552 was transferred to the 815th Flight of the 815th TAS (Tactical Air Squadron) Weather Reconnaissance. This unit was part of the 403rd TAW (Tactical Air Wing), a USAF reserve unit also based at Keesler AFB (for a time, the 815th TAS was designated the 920th Weather Reconnaissance Group).
In 1993, the 53rd WRS Hurricane Hunters was reactivated as a USAF reserve entity still at Keesler AFB and assumed all weather reconnaissance duties while still attached to the 815th TAS in terms of aircraft and personnel. It was at this time that four C-130H aircraft belonging to the 815th TAS were converted to the WC-130H type, a conversion that sounded the death knell and the end of the military career of the 6 WC-130E's including our 64-0552. These were then transferred to the 309th Aerospace Maintenance and Regeneration Center (AMARC) with inventory number CF0130 for our future CH-13.
The 64-0552 was then purchased by Evergreen Helicopters Inc of McMinnville, Oregon in 1999 and was returned to the C-130E standard. The transport company used it only briefly as a freighter before turning it into a museum piece and considering its resale. Evergreen Helicopters Inc received the certificate of airworthiness on 26 May 1999 and the aircraft was registered N130EV.
To compensate for the loss of CH-02, in the fire at Hangar 40 at Brussels National Airport on 4 May 2006, Sabena Technics, which was in charge of the aircraft for maintenance work, made a commitment to the Belgian Ministry of Defence to find a second-hand C-130 and bring it up to the same standards as the 15th Wing's C-130H fleet.
Having found N130EV alias 64-0552 on the market, Sabena Technics made every effort to repatriate the aircraft to Belgium. The first attempt after having returned the aircraft to flying condition was unsuccessful and it was on the second attempt that the aircraft arrived in Belgium after having passed through the Azores archipelago and Ireland. This was on 8 April 2007.
Sabena Technics started the modification work and it took no less than 23 months to complete the project.
The ambitious upgrade program required a total of 658 modifications, the installation of 203 line replacement units (LRUs), the replacement of 17 kilometers of cabling and the replacement of 23 cubic meters of metal. All of this titanic work represented no less than 150,000 man-hours.
On 17 March 2009, CH-13 was officially presented in the presence of the then Minister of Defence, Mr Pieter De Crem and Mr Christophe Bernardini, CEO of Sabena Technics Group. For the record, the aircraft was first registered CH-14 and it was with this code that it made its first test flight on 19 December 2008. 
The army had decided to make an exception to the rule that had not been changed for decades for the registration of its planes by choosing not to use the number 13 for the second-hand C-130 which it was going to take delivery.
The aircraft intended to replace the CH-02 would indeed be registered CH-14 and not CH-13. According to the usual logic, had admitted the Ministry of Defense in 2007 and that without indicating who had taken this strange decision; but without a doubt, a highly superstitious person.
The company Sabena Technics, which had taken care of finding the replacement aircraft and which would bring it to the same standards as the other planes of the Air Force, had been instructed to consider it as the CH-14.
Until this fact, the army had escaped superstition by systematically using the number 13 for all its types of planes or vehicles, as proof the FX-13, BA-13 or FA-13 which for the most part ended their career without catastrophic accident. 
At the same period, Brussels Airlines had already modified its new logo, by adding a 14th red "Dot" to the thirteen initially chosen to make the stylized "B" on the tail. Superstition when you hold us.
Still, a few months later, informed of the fact, the Minister of Defense at the time, Mr. Pieter De Crem as well as the Commander-in-Chief of the Air Force had ordered that number 14 must be deleted and replaced by the number 13. This should have been done before its delivery to the 15th Wing but which will only be done on March 7th, 2009, 10 days before the official reception of the aircraft held on March 17th, 2009. According to certain information, unconfirmed but very plausible, many documents bearing the registration CH-14, had to be modified or destroyed and reprinted.
The aircraft joined the 15th Wing fleet and was decked out in August 2013 when it was chosen to wear the decoration commemorating the 40 years of C-130H service in the Air Force and the 60 years of existence of the 15th Wing.
On 10 July 2014, CH-13 returned to Sabena Technics for a D check, losing its beautiful colours, 'Spooky' had lived. During its twelve-year career, the CH-13 flew many missions proudly bearing the Belgian colours all over the world.
The story ends in the year of grace 2021, with the last landing on the Brabant base of Beauvechain. We are April 26th, the loop is closed... we call it an epanadiplosis!
 
Little historical and pictorial overview before the last day...
 
The 64-0552 as WC-130E owned by the 53 WRS
(Courtesy M. Powney
© via Web)
The aircraft operates from Kessler AFB until July 1993
(Via Web * DR)
Back to C-130E standard after a rest at AMARC, seen here in November 1999
(Courtesy L. Laersen
© via Web)
Delivered on May 25th, 1999 To Evergreen Helicopters Inc, McMinnville OR
and registered N130EV
(Courtesy R. Zinabold© via Web)
The aircraft was used briefly by Evergreen before being 
exhibited as a museum piece
(Via Web * DR)
End of 2008, the aircraft registered CH-14 is quite as ready
(Gérard Gaudin©)
On taxi at Brussels Airport Military side
(Coll Serge Van Heertum / SBAP / DR)
The 64-0552 alias CH-14 did it's maiden flight on December 19th, 2008
(Coll Denis Eusicom / DR)
March 17th, 2009 the CH-13 is presented to the press by Mr Pieter De Crem (MOD), the 15th Wing Base Commander and Mr Christophe Bernardini, CEO Sabena Technics Group (Not on the picture) 
(Serge Van Heertum©)
Taxi for the first operational flight with MOD on board
(Serge Van Heertum©)
The former "E" model is now a "H" one after many modifications
(Serge Van Heertum©)
The CH-13 was at same standard as the 12 aircraft of the basic order
(Serge Van Heertum©)
Take off on March 17th, 2009 in the late afternoon
(Serge Van Heertum©)
The CH-13 little bit tagged
(Serge Van Heertum©)
13,51... Why? If someone have the answer, a mail to sbap is welcome
(Serge Van Heertum©)
In August 2013, the plane received a special paint to commemorate the 40 years of service and the 60 years of the 15 Transport Wing
(Serge Van Heertum©)
"Spooky" a night of October 2013
(Serge Van Heertum©)
And the other side in the day light in January 2014
(Serge Van Heertum©)
May 2015, "Spooky" is gone after a "D" check and the CH-13 is again fully grey
(Serge Van Heertum©)
Some pictures of the last missions:
Here on March 5th, 2021 playing with the clouds
(Serge Van Heertum©)
Few seconds before landing on the Runway 25R on March 23rd, 2021
(Serge Van Heertum©)
A pass in the RWY 25R axis with the cargo door open on April 13th, 2021
(Serge Van Heertum©)
Last turn in short final also on April 13th, 2021
(Serge Van Heertum©)
 
The last day...
 
Take off for the ultimate prestation
(Serge Van Heertum©)
And a last banking pass to salute the 15th Wing and the homebase for 22 years
(Serge Van Heertum©)
Beauvechain Airbase approach after a real shor flight
(Pierre Taquet©)
Close up on the CH-13 during the landing
(Pierre Taquet©)
The last seconds of a 54 years carreer
(Pierre Taquet©)
Forward to a well-deserved retirement
(Pierre Taquet©)
Few meters above the retirment base
(Pierre Taquet©)
2 F-16's went over short after the landing as tribute to the CH-13 retirement
(Pierre Taquet©)
A last pass of the FB-20
(Pierre Taquet©)
And also the FA-102
(Pierre Taquet©)
Flight is over, CH-13 is definitively on the ground
(N.P. Drive Service©)
A last operational profile pictures before he became a museum beast
(N.P. Drive Service©)
And operational life continues...
(Pierre Taquet©)
...with the Agusta A109BA ballet
(Pierre Taquet©)
H-28 departing for a mission in the sun and blue sky
(Pierre Taquet©)
The Siai Marchetti training flights are also fully busy
(Pierre Taquet©)
There are people in the approach
(Pierre Taquet©)
A "Red Devils" aircraft in final...
(Pierre Taquet©)
What beautiful colors are ours!
(Pierre Taquet©)
The second transport expected on this day
(Pierre Taquet©)
The CT-02 with some material for the CH-13 and the technical team
(Pierre Taquet©)
Some C-130 technicians came with the material to "demilitarize" the CH-13
(Pierre Taquet©)
Landing of the new 15 Wing "Mighty Force"
(Pierre Taquet©)
The gentle giant who brought the material... Notice to the museum managers.... Make some room already for that one... No?
(Pierre Taquet©)
 

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