Fresh intel from ARM in Tucson AZ
by Bob Kruse On November 9th, I visited our seven former TACAMO mission Herks in the desert in Tucson. This report is meant to be a followup to the info we gathered during the April 2015 Boneyard Safari TCVA Gathering. I became interested in doing this when I learned that I’d be laying over in Tucson for Delta Airlines this week. I called Terry Smith, the proprietor of Aircraft Restoration and Maintenance Inc. in Tucson, who checked with the owners of these aircraft to get permission for me to come. The aircraft are not owned by ARM, but by a party in California who stores them at ARM and allows them to be parted out. Basically, they have half a squadron of EC-130s there. A very nice guy who represents the owners works out of a trailer back by the airplanes. He didn’t want to be identified, but was very friendly and acommodating. Also met a very nice junkyard dog named Molly. All of the planes from the 2015 deployment are still there. Here’s the lineup:
EC-130G 151888: Mostly just a fuselage. No wings or tail, and everything forward of Flight Station 245 (FS245) gone. This is the point where the ladder went up into the cockpit. All gone from here forward. Landing gear gone.
EC-130Q 156170: Wings and wing box, tail and landing gear gone. FS 245 forward gone. There seems to be a brisk market for C-130 cockpits. The kitchen module (one of two I found) lies abandoned nearby, as does a pile of comm central and cockpit seats.
EC-130Q 156172: The most complete aircraft there. Cockpit gutted, wing box still there, wings missing outboard of inner engine mounts. Portions of the original TACAMO comm suite, including the door from Comm Central up into the flight deck still there. Kitchen module still in place. Sits on its own landing gear. TACAMO graffiti on the vertical tail. All of tail there. Ramp and door opened. Observation window in ramp still in original condition.
EC-130Q 156173: FS245 forward gone. Wing box gone. Tail there. Photo of the light control panel on the port rear of cargo hold is from 173. Has a lot of faded graffiti on the outside. Surfer painted on port side of vertical stabilizer. Gone With The Wind painted on the starboard side toward the front of the fuselage.
EC-130Q 156174: FS245 and forward, wings, tail all gone. LTWA exit tube still in place on the outside of the ramp.
EC-130Q 156175: FS245 forward and wing box gone. Tail there.
EC-130Q 156177: FS245 forward, landing gear and outboard wings gone. Tail there.
There are no plans to scrap these aircraft. They continue to harvest useable parts and plan on doing so for some time. Wing boxes and cockpits are very popular items.
On a personal note, it was an evocative visit for me, especially as these aircraft did so much to defend our nation back in the day. I did think a lot about our shipmates who stood in the same spot as I was standing in at that moment. Many departed, sadly. Now the aircraft are abandoned ghosts in the desert silently collecting dust and sand.I checked my logbook and found that I personally flew all of these airplanes at VQ-4 as follows: 888 10 missions 170 35 missions 172 20 missions 173 22 missions 174 36 missions 175 30 missions 177 46 missions