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Video: Hercs in the Mach Loop

Stunning footage of the famous cargo haulers getting down and dirty

Stick-and-rudder fans will love this. I’ll admit thinking it might be a fake when I glanced at the video thumbnail. There simply aren’t many opportunities in life to see four Lockheed MC-130J Hercules airplanes flying straight toward you. But it is possible at an Internet-famous place called the Mach Loop, located in Wales, UK, and known as “one of the few places in the world where photographers can see combat aircraft flying below them.” In this video, the subjects are four USAF Hercs in trail formation, and with some help from a telephoto lens, the effect is rather dramatic.

The sharp video is a plane spotter’s delight as each aircraft contends with turbulence, wind and the demands of the formation. The 132-foot span of the MC-130s dominates the view, with their four large turboprop engines and four external fuel tanks slung underneath. After swinging out a bit wider in the first left turn, the fourth aircraft in the formation briefly sheds a cloud of water vapor from the top of its wing as the pilot adds load factor to keep up with the ships ahead. While it’s hard to say how fast they’re going, there’s certainly a sense of speed and excitement on the first pass.

On the second pass, the cargo door of the lead plane can be seen wide-open, no doubt giving the crew members in the aft compartment the only view that may be better than that enjoyed by the photographers and onlookers bravely clinging to the cliffs nearby.

The video description states the four Hercules are based with the 67th Special Operations Squadron at RAF Mildenhall. One can only wonder if, in the days before the Internet, the Lockheed SR-71 Blackbird may have also ventured through the Mach Loop a time or two, as it was also based at Mildenhall for a couple of decades. We can dream…

This Incredible Plane: Lockheed C-130 Hercules

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