This C-130A Hercules was the 126th built by Lockheed Aircraft corp. of Marietta , Georgia . It was accepted into the Air Force inventory on 23 August 1957.
In a very panicked state, hundreds of people were rushing to get aboard, as the aircraft represented a final ticket to freedom.
People hurriedly crowded into the Herk, packing in tighter and tighter. Eventually, the loadmaster informed the pilot, Major Phuong, a South Vietnamese instructor pilot, that he could not get the rear ramp closed due to the number of people standing on it. In a moment of inspiration, Major Phuong slowly taxied forward, then hit the brakes. The loadmaster called forward again stating he had successfully got the doors closed.
In all, 452 people were on board, including a staggering 32 in the cockpit alone. Using a conservative estimate of 100 pounds per person, it translated into an overload of at least 10,000 pounds. Consequently, the Herk used every bit of the runway and overrun before it was able to get airborne.
The target was Thailand , which should have been 1:20 in flight time, but after an hour and a half, the aircraft was over the Gulf of Siam , and they were clearly lost. Finally, a map was located, they identified some terrain features, and they were able to navigate. They landed at Utapao , Thailand after a three and a half hour flight.
Ground personnel were shocked at what "fell out" as they opened the doors. It was clear that a longer flight would almost certainly have resulted in a loss of life. In the end, however, all 452 people made it to freedom aboard this historic C-130.
452 very happy passengers and I'll wager there wasn't one complaint about the service!
Upon landing, the aircraft was reclaimed by the United States Air Force and assigned to two different Air National Guard units for the next 14 years.
"Words are easy, like the wind; Faithful friends are hard to find." William Shakespeare