On the north side of Fort Bragg, you’ll find Pope Army Airfield, a large airstrip dedicated to transporting Soldiers and supplies to various parts of the world. Pope has gone back and forth as an Army airfield and an Air Force base throughout its history.
If you are a paratrooper, you’ve experienced Pope Army Airfield from any of the various aircraft that utilize the runway for jumps. If you aren’t a paratrooper, you’ve undoubtedly seen the military planes that take off from the airfield on an almost daily basis.
If you’re one of those people who enjoys watching planes take off and land, the Flightline Playground on the corner of Manchester and Reilly roads is a pretty great place to watch aircraft come and go with some regularity.
Pope sees its fair share of aircraft, but I’m going to detail two. These are common planes used for jumps, so when a large group of Soldiers are on the schedule for a jump, you’ll most often see these planes lined up on the flightline ready to go.
C-130 Hercules
A four-engine turboprop airplane, the Lockheed C-130 Hercules is a very definable aircraft. It is also probably the most common seen on the flightline of Pope Army Airfield.
This airplane type has been in service with the United States since the 1950s, and currently holds the record for being the longest continuously produced military aircraft at 60 years.
The Army and Air Force use it for airborne assaults, search and rescue and tactical operations. The Navy and Coast Guard also have C-130s that they have developed for specific uses such as aerial refueling and maritime patrols.
There are 40 variants of the C-130 used in 60 different countries around the world. Australia was the first non-American country to use a C-130 in its air force.
The C-130 Hercules is special because it can use unprepared runways for take off and landing. This means that the plane has the capability of landing pretty much wherever it’ll fit, and that can be a huge advantage when flying into undeveloped areas.
There has been some talk of replacing the C-130. It has been a conversation since the 1970s, but developers have yet to produce a plane that has the versatility of the C-130. As of 2014, early development stages on a replacement were announced, but these planes would not be in production until possibly 2030. Until then, the C-130 will continue to be a workhorse for the United States Armed Forces. The current model is the C-130J Super Hercules.
The Boeing C-17 Globemaster III is a very large aircraft, with a wingspan of around 170 feet. It was developed in the 1980s and 1990s and was built until November 2015, although parts are still being made for the aircraft. It is currently used to carry troops and equipment all around the world.
The C-17 is powered by four turbofan engines, similar to those used on the Boeing 757. The C-17 can take off on very short runways. This plane is also used to accompany Air Force One, and is used to carry the Presidential limousine. The United States currently has 213 C-17s in use, and they can be seen fairly often at Pope Army Airfield.
When trying to identify this plane, note that it does not have propellers like the CASA or C-130, and will be notably much larger than the other two.
While the Army utilizes other aircraft frequently, these planes are often used by Airborne qualified Soldiers for jumps in the Fort Bragg area. For a list of upcoming jumps — and the aircraft that will be utilized — see the jump schedule.