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Aug 18 2021

Interview: Transport aircraft for the eFP mission

Air transport is one of the key capabilities of operations. Paul T. is a co-pilot and supports the Battle Group in Lithuania.

Carrying personnel and equipment, an A400M aircraft of the German Air Force is heading back to Germany.

Air transport of personnel and equipment is a major factor for the success of the eFP mission in Lithuania. It is the fastest means of transport available to move the soldiers from Germany to their country of deployment and back. Large amounts of technical and medical equipment as well as personnel are regularly transported this way.

Lieutenant Colonel Paul T. is a member of the Belgian Air Force and has participated in the flights to Lithuania. In today's interview, he will tell us about his experiences.

Lieutenant Colonel Paul T. is the co-pilot on board the 50-year-old C130 transport aircraft.

Why did you become a pilot and what led you to fly the C130 Hercules aircraft? How many flying hours have you spent on this type of aircraft?

My name is Paul T. I am 33 years old and the co-pilot on a C130 Hercules. There are two paths to becoming a pilot in the Belgian Air Force: by choosing an officer career at the military school or by directly joining 5th Training Squadron. I choose the latter path since I already was in possession of an engineer degree at the time.

Flying truly is a passion. Besides flying the "Herc", I spend weekends and holidays as a tow-plane pilot for the young glider pilots of the Royal Belgian Air Cadets. I was not interested in becoming a fighter jet pilot. What I was looking for was the team spirit of a transport-aircraft crew. The C130 is one of the few remaining airplanes flying with a flight engineer on board. The way tasks are assigned in a cockpit of three is something quite special and unique, which I will certainly miss on the A400M.

I have flown approximately 1300 hours on the Hercules with a PICUS qualification. PICUS means pilot in command flying under the supervision of a more experienced pilot. I am working hard to become a captain, but it is a long and difficult process. I hope I will be able to get there before the C130 is retired.

Could you please tell us something about your most exciting and dangerous flight?

I cannot single out one particularly exciting flight. All missions involve a great deal of adrenaline. Be it in the middle of the desert or in the icy cold of northern Canada – every situation demands concentration, professionalism and dedication.

The crew consists of two crew members and the pilot.

The frequency of technical problems increases with the age of an aircraft, and the airplane I currently fly is 50 years old. One often needs a certain amount of ingenuity to avoid being stuck in an unpleasant place.

Despite all these technical problems which spice up our everyday routine, I feel very safe on the C130. This is mainly due to our good maintenance regime and our good training. Thunderstorms – "CBs" in pilot jargon – are what scare me the most. I have seen enormous thunderstorms in Africa, and, as a pilot, finding myself amidst such a storm is an experience I can definitely do without.

I have flown the training aircraft of the air force: Marchetti, Alpha Jet and Xingu. They are all fine planes. I also fly the old Piper Cub for the air cadets. It has a nice vintage aspect which reminds of everything I love about the C130.

This C130 of the Belgian Air Force transports personnel, equipment and long-sought-after COVID-19 vaccines to Lithuania.

Could you please give us some more information about the history and the technology of the C130 Hercules? What role does air transport conducted by this type of aircraft play for the mission in Lithuania?

The C130 is a legacy aircraft. This means that the first models were produced in the 1950ies, and some parts have remained unchanged ever since. About 10 years ago, there was an avionics update. This enables us to use more modern types of landing approaches. We have already used this technology in a number of logistical missions in support of the eFP Battle Group.

Air transport offers a fast and flexible way to support the mission. We are doing our best to deliver medical and military equipment as efficiently as possible. The other key missions of our squadron are ODF in Jordan, MINUSMA in the Sahel zone and RSM in Afghanistan.

Story by PAO Team eFP Lithuania

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