KC-135 Stratotanker or C-130 Hercules


Well-Known Member
I am thinking about trying to apply for a KC-135 pilot slot with a ANG unit. There are also some C-130 ANG squadrons who I think will be accepting applications sometime soon. I'd like to know more about each plane and the lifestyle comparison before I send in an application.

I've noticed some Herk and KC-135 guys on this form so I thought I would ask:

What do you like about the flying with each plane?

What's the lifestyle like on each plane in the ANG? Besides deployments, what are the other trips like (correct me if I'm wrong but I think they're called TDY's). How varied is the flying with each airplane?

Which plane would I get more flying time in? I don't want to fly for the airlines or "timebuild". I just want to fly a ton, and have fun with the other guys in the squadron.

I've read that most squadrons spend much more time on the ground together than in the air together. Does the KC_135 or the Herk have more interesting stops to hang out together?

One more question - which plane might have a longer career with the ANG? I know the Herk is still being produced, and the KC-X is up in the air. Any thoughts?

Please feel free to contribute anything and everything. I'm really trying to know as much as I can about the planes and the lifestyle that goes with each.

Lots of complicated ways of looking at this. It's hard to come up with one good answer because everyone is different. I can't speak from a military pilot's perspective, but I know both airplanes are range type, so you're gonna get to spend more than .8 in both on a typical sortie. I'm in the Guard -135 community. It's a very family oriented community. I'm sure the same goes for -130s as they will also find themselves in the same places. Both airplanes have a sizable crew. Whether or not the crew sticks together on the road depends on the personalities. I, personally, am a "everyone is invited to hang out" kind of guy, but everyone is different. I've been to a ton of cool places and even in the not-so-cool places have managed to have a good time with my fellow crewmembers. Some of it has been alcohol related and some of it has been due to the pure thoughtfullness of everybody.

Having said that, I can say that the people you fly with make all the difference. I'd do a TDY in a garbage truck if it was with my 128 ARW brothers and sisters. You just can't completely predict what you're unit will be doing 10 years from now.
Thanks Falcon. Do you guys go to alot of the same places as the 130s? What are your overnights like compared to each other? Other than the Middle East, where do you go on TDYs?
The 130's have a different mission than us and go to a few more places. You'll find them going where the cargo is going, whereas the -135 generally goes where the fuel is needed. An overnight is all about the mission and where you are. I've been on trips where the mission is purely getting passengers from point A to point B and maybe back to point A. Those are typically nice trips. There's also more involved pax hauling missions that might be centered around getting pax moved along a series of destinations as quickly as possible. There you'll see a bunch of 17 hour overnights. Very tiring. A true TDY involves spending a extended period away from home, usually in one place. Most of the least desirable TDY's are longer on our end. I have yet to see a 180 day deployement to Hickam. I've been all over the world. You'd be surprised the places the US military goes. I know a guy who's been to 6 continents. He nearly got a mission to Antartica, but the airplane he was on stopped going there.
You hit it on the head, Falon. :) Boom, I am in the -135 active duty Mx career field, and we also have a lot of one-on-one experience with the flight crews. They really seem to love what they do. Unfortunately, I cannot speak from a 130 perspective.

I'll throw my hat in for the Herk side.

The C-130 lifestyle is VASTLY different than the 135 side. The only thing we have in common is our MAJCOM.

A simple breakdown of my very typical 700 hours in the C-130:
400 in OIF, 90% of which is pax hauling for the Army
300 CONUS-side tactical flying. Everything from 300ft low levels, 8-ship formations in the weather at night, airdrops (low level and JPADS high altitude), and mountain flying.
100 high altitude airways. 30 of these hours are crossing the ocean going home from the desert and seeing the world, another 20 doing aeromedical evac, and the other 50 are just getting to/from somewhere to fly tactical.

Plus, autopilot is for sissies. The C-130 is handflown until you reach cruise, and handflown from the minute you start the descent. Tactical flying is a requirement for basic qualification, not an add-on upgrade or considered something special. You will *bond* with your deployed crew, because you live every second of each day with them, and each person has control over how the mission goes. There is only a very faint, never-mentioned line between O's and E's- it is not a "my way or the highway" airframe at all.

C-130 crews are considered to be much more "down in it" than almost any other fixed wing asset. We work for the Army, so we go where they go. You will spend ALOT of time in OIF/OEF. More time than you probably care to. You will not make buku per diem while flying the hardest missions, and you will not stay in resorts while doing it (like many of the strat lift guys).

Its a hard life, in no joking way. CONUS guys spend more time in OIF than almost anyone else in the Air Force, and there's no glamor to any of it. Its an old airplane, and you'll fly on real gauges, with no fancy screens or computers to do the flying for you. Its one of the last airframes with a nav, because you need that third brain in the loop to handle all the information.

Send me a message if you have any questions.