C-130 Giving Props
Original Art Print Salutes C-130 Operations, Partnership
December 2016 marks a major milestone for the Royal Air Force (RAF): the 50th anniversary of the arrival of its first C-130 Hercules airlifter.
The RAF’s C-130 fleet evolved over those 50 years, transitioning from C-130Es to C-130Ks. In 1998, the RAF made Hercules history when it became the launch customer for the C-130J Super Hercules, which is the current production variant of the C-130. Today, the RAF operates 24 C-130Js.
No matter the variant or production model Herc operated, the RAF has remained one of the most visible and tasked upon C-130 operators in the world.
The arrival of that very first C-130E didn’t just represent a new era in RAF airlift operations; it also represented the start of a pivotal relationship among the RAF, Marshall Aerospace and Defence, and Lockheed Martin.
Together, these groups have partnered to provide pivotal support for the RAF’s C-130 fleet in terms of operations, maintenance and sustainment operations. Marshall first began working with Lockheed Martin with the arrival of the first RAF C-130 delivery in 1966. Since then, Marshall has supported the conversion, modification, maintenance and support of C-130s for more than 35 countries. Today, Marshall and Lockheed Martin work with the RAF (and Rolls-Royce) to support its C-130J fleet through the Hercules Integrated Support (HIOS) program.
With so much to recognize and celebrate, the Marshall team wanted to recognize the accomplishments of the RAF’s C-130 fleet and the partnership between itself, the RAF and Lockheed Martin in a meaningful and creative way.
Doing so is a task that is herculean, in scope and size. Knowing this, how and where did the Marshall Aerospace team begin its efforts to commemorate such a deep history and pivotal partnership? With a pen and on the back of an envelope, of course.
It wasn’t just any pen or any envelope: it was the ink and creativity that eventually transformed into a unique artwork honoring the partnership among the C-130, the RAF, Marshall and Lockheed Martin created by famed artist David Bent, Hon CRAeS*, who is one of the world’s leading aviation artists.
The Marshall team began working with Bent more than a year ago on this project.
“To have supported the Royal Air Force C-130 fleet for 50 years is a special achievement and one which we are incredibly proud of,” said Charles Hughes, director of Business Development for Marshall. “What better way to celebrate this magnificent milestone than to commission one of the very best modern aviation artists, who shares and understands the special relationships that those who have, who are and who will work and admire everything that is so special about C-130.”
Large in sentiment and size, the artwork uses the iconic logos of each organization applied to the silhouette of the C-130J Super Hercules’ trademark propeller blades.
“I had the propeller design in mind almost straight away,” Bent said. “I presented several different options, but the propeller design was the clear favorite.”
Rightfully so: the C-130’s propeller blades (manufactured by UK-based Dowty Propellers) have been a defining and differentiating feature for the Hercules since its inception.
The blades also hold additional meaning. In the print there are 24 blades to represent the 24 C-130Js operated by the RAF as well as the 24 propeller blades that are part of each and every C-130J Super Hercules.
On July 9 at England’s Royal International Air Tattoo (RIAT) held at RAF Fairfield, members of Marshall’s leadership began the celebration of the arrival of the RAF’s first C-130 a few months early, by presenting leaders from the RAF and Lockheed Martin with Bent’s art print, celebrating the longstanding partnerships that keep the RAF’s C-130 Hercules fleet flying.
“I hope people are pleased and uplifted by this artwork, and that it is a positive reflection of all the hard work and ingenuity put into [the C-130] through 50 years of collaboration,” Bent said. “Pieces of art have their own lives and I hope this one has a long and happy one.”
One Artist, Many Talents
It’s often said that the C-130 Hercules is one aircraft that supports many missions. That sentiment can also be applied to Bent, who is truly one artist with many talents.
Bent’s portfolio is wide ranging from “aerobots” to landscape geometry. He is creatively fluent across many different media and approaches, including painting, photography, graphic arts and printmaking.
His influences are also wide-ranging, including American pop artists like Andy Warhol and fellow Englishmen including Paul Nash and David Hockey — largely regarded as leaders in their genres.
A glimpse into Bent’s significant collection of work reflects his many interests and influences, both in muses and mediums. Aerospace, however, remains a dominant and constant theme.
His interest in aviation is linked directly to his father, an aircraft enthusiast, expert aeromodeller and, in his early days, a junior technician supporting Sir Alan Cobham’s “Flying Circus” aviation displays that were part of the UK skies in the 1930s.
“He just knew every airplane that flew the skies,” Bent said. “By the time my brother and I were 5-years-old, we were taught to observe aircraft and we knew almost every aircraft that flew the skies.”
His brother retired as a RAF wing commander, while Bent himself went off to art college. But, his love of aviation was never lost.
“[Aviation] is partly an academic interest for me,” he said. “But, I genuinely love the whole industry and much about it. It’s cutting edge, forward looking, high tech. It’s a great subject that I’m very happy to promote to younger artists as a relevant subject.”
An Aviation Icon On An Aviation Icon
Bent is viewed as one of the world’s leading modern aviation artists and beloved by the UK aviation community. His awards and recognitions are expansive, ranging from a year long solo exhibition at the Royal Air Force Museum, London, to being awarded “Honorary Companion of the Royal Aeronautical Society,” which is the organization’s highest distinction to those who have made a significant contribution to the aerospace profession. He’s been referred to the artist most “closely associated with the Red Arrows,” the RAF’s Aerobatic team. Bent is also closely connected to RIAT, through his exhibitions at the event and the commemorative prints created for UK events.
His works include almost every kind of aircraft to grace the skies. Stealth 5th Generation fighters. Vulcans. Tornados. Drones. Harriers. Spitfires. The Concorde. The Red Arrows. And the Hercules.
The C-130 has surfaced in several of Bent’s pieces and collections, starting with a piece entitled, “Spinning Hercules.”
“I was working on my first aviation collection when I took the straight on photograph of the Hercules,” he said. “By doubling it, it became a very striking image."
The Hercules also features within Bent’s “Tribute” and “Transport Command” collections.
So, what has drawn him to immortalize the C-130 in his art? Is it the Herc’s rugged good looks? Purposeful design? Versatility? Or, the place that it holds in many hearts? All of those things, actually, according to the artist.
“The Hercules, of course, is an iconic aircraft,” Bent said. “In the case of the Hercules, form follows function. Like the Bauhaus mantra. Obviously aircraft have special purposes and the Hercules proves that it gets the job done. It’s got character, lots of variants and many different uses.”
While Bent has spent time inside a few Hercs to learn more about that aforementioned function and form, he’s also spent many days with it flying overhead. His home and studio are located between two RAF bases: RAF Brize Norton (where the RAF’s C-130 fleet is currently operated out of) and RAF Lynham (where the RAF’s C-130 was previously operated out of prior to its closing in 2012).
“[The Hercules] has been a dependable mainstay of the RAF transport command for many years,” Bent said. “It’s certainly well-loved in this country — and around the world.”
*Hon CRAeS is Honorary Companion of the Royal Aeronautical Society. David Bent is the first artist in 30 years to be awarded this title.
Find out more about David Bent and his art work at http://davidbentstudio.com/