The end of applause for the legendary Transall troop transport aircraft

Posted on Sunday, May 22, 2022 at 1:49 pm

Some have called it the Pollux, named after the small, round-nosed black dog from the 1960s Animation Service.

It was a tactical transport aircraft in nearly every combat, particularly in French-speaking Africa, where it flew by leaps and bounds (1,500 km) with its big nose, huge cabin and deceptive air.

He roamed laterite trails, their pits, herds of zebras, the clouds of sand they landed while bouncing on the ground, equipment, and hunters refueling in flight or conducting humanitarian operations.

After a prestigious final tour, the Air and Space Force finally paid him a tribute at Evro Military Base, which is exceptionally open to the public.

With a demonstration in the presence of its predecessor, Nuratlas, and its successor, the Airbus A400M.

With conscription, “there must be someone in every family to take,” Colonel John, 49, 23 of them perished in Transal, salutes the “mixture of civilians and soldiers” that the apparatus has allowed for half a century.

The aircraft ordered by the French Army was created by Transport Allianz, a group formed with Nord-Aviation for France, Weser Flugzeugbau (WFB) and Hamburger Flugzeugbau (HFB) for Germany. It was assembled in Burg, Bremen and Hamburg, and carried out its first external operation in 1970.

At 40 meters long, 32.4 meters wide and with 160 square meters of wing area, the C-160 was involved in all conflicts from 1970 to 2020.

Congo, Senegal, Central African Republic, Djibouti and also Sarajevo or Afghanistan where he was familiar with ceiling height.

To say the military is nostalgic is an understatement.

“It makes everyone who gets close to her fall in love. It’s a flying wheelbarrow,” defense specialist Florent de Saint-Victor told AFP.

“It makes crazy noises, we have helmets, it screams, it smells of oils. It’s an old fashioned flying club with foldable fabric seats.”

– A miracle was possible –

But this rustic character made the machine the king of the track. “There’s a hole in the cabin: we do a quick fix by soldering a sheet of metal. No buttons flashing in all directions.”

Hydraulics allow the landing gear to be extended manually in the event of a jam. And then “it’s about time we were able to deliver a raclette or crepe maker in an amber deep in Africa.”

Confirmation of Commander Clouds 40 years. “I’m going to miss that feeling we had, these thousands of hours we spent together. Being in a place to be good.”

Today, the Airbus A400M lifts three times, and three times heavier.

Transall belongs to a bygone era, a time of enhanced soldier interoperability, weapons interoperability, and advanced electronics. Do we lose in the countryside what we gain in modernity?

It is impossible to be accepted by the active military who in unison praises the performance of the A400M.

Transall did not have an anti-missile protection system, and the radios had a very short elongation to call France.

“But you didn’t have to bring a team from Paris to look at the guts of the plane,” notes Florent de Saint-Victor. “We fix with a headlight. There is grease and we wipe our hands on the underwear (…). Miracles were possible.”

Such a launch, in four minutes of an African track, Colonel John told him. After hours of seeing the bribes allegedly increasing gradually, with a thousand rebels stationed at the end of the runway, he slipped away into the night, too happy not to be brought down.

Its export success will remain limited: Transal was born during the Cold War, between two awkward brothers, the American C-130 and the Russian Antonov, in a global market segmented by geopolitics.

But pilots and mechanics will not forget this. “We’ll see each other tonight, and we’ll talk about our memories. Tonight won’t be enough,” breathes Captain Nicholas, after 10 years on Transall and eight years on the A400M.

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