CHARLOTTE, NC (WBTV) - It is the end of an era for a group of eight planes that serve the 156th Airlift Squadron in Charlotte.
After 46 years of using C-130 aircraft to deliver goods and personnel to combat zones, natural disaster locations and other emergencies, the unit is switching to a C-17 aircraft for their future missions.
"It's a wonderful plane, it's versatile in so many things," Lt. Colonel Miles K. Harkey said. "It's bittersweet, I'm going to miss the Herc (C-130 Hercules).
Harkey has served in war for 15 years with the C-130, and returned from deployment in July. He says the plane has been there through all of the ups and downs, like on one deployment in 2004.
"We survived a pretty sporty event, and we thanked Herc because I don't think you could ever do what we did with another plane," Harkey said.
For many of the crew members, they have served their entire career in the Air National Guard on the C-130s. Chief Master Sergeant Ned Seamen will retire after 34 years of service on the aircraft.
"I knew this day would come, I've been dreading it, but it's time," Seamen said.
The entire team describes the thrilling, low-flying plane as a fun, hot rod like cargo plane. They say it is the best of the best in its tactical missions.
Crew members have flown as low as 100 feet off the ground, transported dolphins and killer whales and have used the plane as a hospital during emergencies.
By December 2017, the eight C-130s will be transferred to other units. The crew will then get the first of eight C-17 planes by April.