Losses and Aviation Safety

Video shows C-130 Hercules “Buddy Start” (engine start utilising the propeller blast of another aircraft to effect engine starting)

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.

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“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.
Cy Birr, retired USAF pilot after 24 years flying the C-130, explains on Quora;

‘One aircraft for some reason is unable to start an engine but has an otherwise usable set of engines. Typically, this is because of a lack of bleed air to run each engine’s starter or the failure of the starter itself.

‘The flight manual details the procedure as the “Buddy Start.” Found in section 3B of the C-130 -1 flight manual, the steps are roughly as follows.

‘Establish communications after a thorough briefing. Position outside observers to assist in keeping the area clear.

C-130 Hercules “Buddy Start”

‘The aircraft to receive the assist removes the starter or ensures it is fully disengaged from the engine (valve housing).

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‘The aircraft position themselves in close proximity with one engine in direct line with the receiving aircraft’s engine to be started. The flight manual recommends a distance of about ten feet of open space between the two aircraft.

‘The providing aircraft applies power as necessary to start rotation of the other plane’s propeller. The receiving aircraft initiates the start sequence (Condition Lever – RUN, think on/off switch) and the engine should spool up, no problem.’

Birr concludes;

‘There are a number of variations to this but the above captures the basics. Additionally, a C-130 can receive an assist from any other large aircraft such as a C-17 or KC-type aircraft.

‘I have personally provided the assistance getting a squadron mate out of a barren field in North Africa. My crew did not have to buy drinks that night.’

Here’s a video featuring a C-130 Hercules “Buddy Start”.

Photo credit: 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.

View Comments

  • 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 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!

    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.

    "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)

  • Was in Nairobi and didn't have a buddy so we did an aborted takeoff roll to get the airflow. Tower almost wouldn't let us attempt it with only 3 engines running.

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