Hercules Celebrates 50th Birthday at Work in Pacific Islands

Historical image of an RNZAF C-130 Hercules aircraft from inside another aircraft
Historical photo of an RNZAF C-130 Hercules aircraft from inside another aircraft

24 March 2015

Hercules NZ7001 turns 50 today, and is spending her birthday doing what she has so often done before - delivering aid in the Pacific.

Royal New Zealand Air Force (RNZAF) C-130 NZ7001 was the first of five C-130s which arrived at RNZAF Base Auckland in Whenuapai in 1965. Since then, the C-130 has been at the forefront of many New Zealand Defence Force operations, missions and exercises.

The hard-working C-130 flew out of Whenuapai on Sunday morning with aid for Tuvalu and picked up more in Suva. After delivering that cargo to Tuvalu, she returned to Suva for the night.

Yesterday, she took three pallets of medical supplies and 40 Fijian soldiers to Port Vila in Vanuatu and returned to Suva for a second night.

Today she flies to Port Vila again with more Fijian support and relief supplies before returning to Whenuapai, where she is expected to land around 8pm tonight.

There is no official birthday party for NZ7001 but 40 Squadron personnel will welcome her home in style.

40 Squadron Commanding Officer (CO) Squadron Leader Steve Thornley said that it was a great privilege to be CO on such an occasion.

“In the 50 years these amazing aircraft have served New Zealand, they have spanned the globe supporting everything you could expect of an air transport aircraft, both in peace time and on active operations,” he said.

“This month alone we have seen C-130s delivering aid, supporting NZDF personnel in the Middle East and moving an elephant for Auckland Zoo. It is this sort of utility that keeps these aircraft in such high demand all over the world and is a testament to both the quality of design and the commitment of those that work on them that the first of our fleet of five has reached this milestone.

“As for the birthday celebrations, they will be short-lived as our maintenance team turn her around for another mission to Vanuatu tomorrow,” he said.

To celebrate the 50 year milestone, specially designed tail art has been installed on NZ7001 which she will wear for the coming twelve months.


The C-130 provides the NZDF with tactical airlift capability and primarily performs the intra-theatre portion of an airlift mission due to the aircraft’s ability to land on dirt strips, paddocks and even beaches. The C-130 is suitable for a range of military missions including search and rescue, transporting troops and cargo, and humanitarian aid and disaster relief.

Chief of Air Force Air Vice-Marshal (AVM) Yardley says the utility of the aircraft is regularly demonstrated with the tasks undertaken by 40 Squadron almost every week.

“The C-130 is one of our busiest fleets because of the variety of taskings it can complete. For example, this summer season we have flown four missions to Antarctica to support Antarctica New Zealand and we recently delivered two large electricity generators to Mauke in the Cook Islands,” he said.

To ensure the C-130 remains fit for purpose, all five aircraft have been upgraded in a Life Extension Upgrade project led by the Ministry of Defence out of RNZAF Base Woodbourne in Blenheim. This project has replaced mechanical, structural and avionics components, installed new flight deck communications and improved navigation systems. The last aircraft (NZ7002) is due to be completed in December 2015.

New Zealand is one of 60 nations who use the C-130 for tactical airlifting. The C-130 has had the longest continuous production run of any military aircraft in history, from 1955 onwards.

For more information please contact Defence Public Affairs on 021 487 980

This page was last reviewed on 24 March 2015.