Losses and Aviation Safety

US Navy P-3 crew member recalls when a USAF C-130 Hercules provided Buddy Start to his Orion after #2 engine failed to start

The C-130 Hercules

The C-130 Hercules primarily performs the tactical portion of the airlift mission. The aircraft is capable of operating from rough, dirt strips and is the prime transport for airdropping troops and equipment into hostile areas. The C-130 operates throughout the US Air Force, serving with Air Mobility Command, Air Force Special Operations Command, Air Combat Command, US Air Forces in Europe, Pacific Air Forces, Air National Guard and the Air Force Reserve Command, fulfilling a wide range of operational missions in both peace and war situations. Basic and specialized versions of the aircraft airframe perform a diverse number of roles, including airlift support, Antarctic ice resupply, aeromedical missions, weather reconnaissance, aerial spray missions, firefighting duties for the US Forest Service and natural disaster relief missions.

The US Air Force and air forces from allied nations used various versions of this versatile aircraft for aeromedical evacuation, mid-air refueling of helicopters, mid-air space capsule recovery, search and rescue, reconnaissance, as a gunship, and for many other missions.

“Buddy Start”

The C-130 has a procedure called a “Buddy Start” that is defined as an engine start utilising the propeller blast of another aircraft to effect engine starting.

Robert, a former US Navy P-3 Orion crew member, shares an interesting story with The Aviation Geek Club;

This print is available in multiple sizes from AircraftProfilePrints.com – CLICK HERE TO GET YOURS. P-3C Orion VP-40 Fighting Marlins, QE733 / 161733 / 1991

‘I was a Navy Aircrew on a P-3 Orion in the 80s with VP-94 (a former USN-R squadron) at then NAS New Orleans, and we’d just dropped off some pax at what was then NAS Dallas. The drill after landing was to shut down #1 and #2 engines, drop the ladder, hustle the pax off, then restart the two engines before takeoff.

‘As the aft observer, I was tasked with watching the engines while they were being started, and the call over the intercom was, “Standby to start #1” It fired up just fine. 30 seconds later, the same call for #2 came over, and I heard this intense, horrible screeching/grinding sound as the prop started to turn, but then stopped. Some quite colorful language (not found in any NATOPS manual) from the flight engineer followed, and we came to a full stop. I ran up front…WTF? “We just sheared the !%$#^ starter shaft on #2!” was the answer, and our collectively glum faces revealed we all knew of the very strict policy about three-engine ferry flights——NO!

USAF C-130 Hercules providing Buddy Start to US Navy P-3 Orion

‘Well hell, we’re stuck here. I was a very junior E-4 and had my flight suit, boots and maybe $5 in my pocket. The idea of getting stranded for God-knows-how-long was not pleasant. That’s when the co-pilot said, “Hang on. There’s a C-130 on the opposite taxiway.” After dialing up the radio, “Air Force C-130, got four lonely Navy guys in town looking who can’t get #2 online, and we’re looking for a, ah, um, ‘happy ending.’ Got any interest?”

‘Again, I was WTF? as the C-130 and our P-3 slowly taxied into position, and the Herc driver locked his brakes while we go into position, ‘from behind.’ a.k.a., nose-to-butt. Advancing to full power, the C-130 shook like crazy, and our #2 prop slowly started to spin. What a relief to hear that familiar roar when it came to life and 100% RPM.’

He concludes;

‘“There you go Robert…when we get home, you can tell your girlfriend she can have the night off, as you already got a BJ from the Air Force.” (ha-ha)’

C-130 Hercules Buddy Start

Photo credit: US Navy and screenshot from video

Dario Leone

Dario Leone is an aviation, defense and military writer. He is the Founder and Editor of “The Aviation Geek Club” one of the world’s most read military aviation blogs. His writing has appeared in The National Interest and other news media. He has reported from Europe and flown Super Puma and Cougar helicopters with the Swiss Air Force.

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