In the early 1950s, the aviation industry was gaga over jets. The U.S. Air Force was no different, looking for high-speed, high-performance jet aircraft that could go toe-to-toe with the Soviet Union. But there was also the need for a transport aircraft that could fly over long distances, carry bulky equipment, including artillery and tanks, drop paratroops, land, and take off from shorter, more austere airfields. And the C-130 Hercules would be the perfect fit.
The Ugly Duckling
Lockheed Martin’s design team created a four-engine turboprop that was stubby and not at all as attractive as those sleek fighter jets. Lockheed’s Kelly Johnson, who designed over 40 aircraft including the U2 and SR-71, was aghast at the prototype cargo aircraft.
“If you send that in,” Johnson told his boss, Hall Hibbard, referring to the first proposed design for the C-130, “you’ll destroy the Lockheed Company.” That was in 1951.