LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (KTHV) -- If you've lived in central Arkansas long, you've probably seen them. Big military planes flying overhead. But what do you really know about the aircraft based at the Little Rock Air Force Base?
In the first part of a week-long series, we're taking you behind the gate.
"There's more to the C-130 than flying around and giving out gas," Marine Staff Sergeant Shadrach Brausch said.
The C-130 has history. "It's one of the oldest airframes we have," added Air Force Lt. Colonel Jared Paslay. It dates back to the early 1950's, an eternity in the technology era.
"We've seen aircraft go from propellers to jets and different configurations," said Air Force Tech Sergeant Lee Deaver. “The C-130 has stuck it out. The reason is it's just so capable for what we use it for."
"It's not as glamorous as something like a helicopter or a jet," added Brausch. “It doesn't go super-fast or make super big explosions."
The C-130 is a four-engine turboprop plane, designed with a big belly. "The C-130 is built to carry stuff," explained Air Force Staff Sergeant Dallion Richards. Lots of stuff including a fire engine.
"40,000 pounds of ammo on the back of this thing and the plane does just fine with it." The plane shines in times of disaster relief. "I think that's one of the finest missions that we do," he said.
Whether it's putting out wildfires or helping people rebuild after a hurricane.
"You see a C-130, there's probably going to be a shoot coming out of the back end," said Air Force pilot James Morris.
"Bringing in supplies, food, clothing, tents when homes are destroyed," added Deaver.
And it's just as capable in battle. "I've seen parts flying off this aircraft," remembered Marine Staff Sergeant Justin King. "I've seen engines shut down, however, this aircraft is still maintaining its structural ability."
Structural ability. The aircraft is strong, incredibly strong. There is no better example of the strength and ability of the C-130 than the one on display at the entrance to the base. That exact plane in 1975, the day before the fall of Saigon, more than 450 people rushed into this cargo ramp and onto safety.
"That story is pretty incredible," said King. "I can't believe how many people they crammed in that aircraft," remarked Deaver. "And just being on it myself with 120 people on it, thinking how many more they had on it, it's just insane."
"It's just a testament to the strength of the airframe," added Richards. "That we can push it past the written limits and still have mission success at the end of the day."
"I think it tells you a lot about the plane and the people that fly it," said Paslay. "We are mission hackers. We get the job done. We get tough jobs done. No matter the challenge. We're always there to meet and exceed expectations."
Colonel Paslay said he believes the future of the air force may be unmanned aircraft drones, but he said he wouldn't be surprised to see a new version of the C-130 coming out in the future.