A group of people, some in military uniforms, gathered on a patch of grass in between a runway and taxiway, heads tilted back, eyes on the gray-blue sky.
The group — along with some gawkers lined up against the fence in the back of Frederick Municipal Airport — were looking for a plane, one much larger than what usually lands at the airport. It wasn’t until it landed for what would be its last time that the size of this U.S. Air Force C-130 could be fully appreciated.
The sound made by the steel gray C-130 made its descent and landed on the runway at Frederick Municipal Airport was so loud that many of those who gathered where the plane would ultimately come to rest had earplugs to block out the noise from the plane’s propellers.
The plane will stay at Frederick Municipal Airport for at least five weeks as it is disassembled. Wings will come off, propellers detached. Then it will be towed, on its own wheels, to Fort Detrick’s Area B, located across Rosemont Avenue from the main campus.
There, the decommissioned plane will be reassembled and equipped to be a testing simulator, allowing the Air Force Medical Evaluation Support Activity to test devices, situations or procedures. It will not be used for training, said Aaron Nelson, deputy chief of Air Force Medical Evaluation Support Activity.
During the remodel, crews will add a Bose speaker system so the test operators can simulate in-flight noises or what it sounds like on the ground. There will be different simulations that include what it is like if there is a fire on the plane or other dangerous situations, said Roger Davila, program manager and electronic designer with one of the Air Force’s Trainer Development Squadrons.
It took approximately three years to secure funding and plan for the plane’s final resting spot at Fort Detrick, Nelson said.
“We’ve been looking forward to this for quite a while,” he said.
The C-130 was built in 1974 and has more than 24,000 inflight hours. But Nelson did not know much about the plane’s history. He said he hoped that it would come along with the cargo plane.
“We’re kind of curious to see where it’s been,” he said.
C-130 is a type of military cargo airplane. It can be used for transporting people or supplies. It can also be used to transport patients. While there are nurses and medics on the flight, most patients in a C-130 should be stable for transport, Nelson said.
After the plane arrived from Mansfield, Ohio, a second military plane landed at the airport to pick up the military members to fly them back to Ohio.
Fort Detrick is an important federal partner for Frederick, said Richard Griffin, director of the city’s economic development. The city was happy that its airport could be used to assist with the transport of the plane to Fort Detrick, he said.
Griffin is looking forward to seeing the plane transported through the city to its new home.
“And obviously, when they do that, it’ll be an interesting thing for people to see,” he said.