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ANSWERED on Sun 24 Aug 2008 - 3:20 am UTC by byrd

Question: C-130 Galaxy operating cost

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Sat 23 Aug 2008 - 5:43 am UTC



What would be the typical operating cost for flying a
loaded C-130 Galaxy cargo plane over a distance of
2000 nautical miles?. Please mention the source.


Sat 23 Aug 2008 - 8:58 pm UTC

Uclue Researcher Request for clarification


Hi dr.kuma,

It would be helpful for a researcher if you could clarify a few points.

1) The nickname for the C-130 is the Hercules, while the Galaxy is a C-5. Which one were you interested in?

2) Were you wanting just the operating costs of the aircraft itself, as in fuel, oil, etc. or were you wanting costs for chartering and/or renting the aircraft as well, with or without crew?  

3) Would you be satisfied with just rough estimates? If not, then you would post some additional details, such as the year aircraft, takeoff departure locations, approximate route of the 2k mile trip, time of year, approximate loading of the plane, etc. all of which can have a bearing on the cost of a flight. But please also bear in mind that even with those additional details it will only be possible to come up with general figures. Accurate costs would only be possible to calculate by doing an actual flight plan with exact details for the flight and having access to the actual pilots operating handbook for the exact aircraft. 

Thank you,


Sat 23 Aug 2008 - 9:23 pm UTC

Question clarification


Correction, I meant a C-130 Hercules, flying from Johannesburg,
South Africa, to Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, with about 10ton of cargo
and returning empty. Apology for the earlier inaccurate and
incomplete description.


Sat 23 Aug 2008 - 9:35 pm UTC

Question clarification


I am only interested in knowing approximately the aircraft
operating cost, so that I can use this as the basis for a
rough estimate of the full cost of the operation.
Although this has no relevance for the calculation, the objective
would be to send 8 black rhinos from South Africa to Ethiopia.


Sun 24 Aug 2008 - 3:20 am UTC

Uclue Researcher Answer


Hi dr.kuma,

Ok, it's difficult to be approximate here since there are so many variables to consider, but a general round-number ballpark figure for aircraft operating cost for a C-130 flight from Johannesburg, South Africa to Addis Ababa, Ethiopia would be in the range of approximately $22-26,000 one way. Double that for the round trip.

This estimate is assuming the aircraft is in good operating condition, with full oil and other fluids, tires in good repair, and all permits and necessary documents in order. The numbers are based on fuel, distance and time only, since I don't have any other information to figure in such as insurance, maintenance, hangaring/tiedown, current fuel prices at the time of flight, crew compensation, any local surcharges as well as the exact C-130 model, exact route, weight and balance figures, weather conditions, pilot technique, etc. all of which can affect overall operating costs.

Also bear in mind that the one-way distance is greater than the maximum range of a fully loaded C-130. Granted, your anticipated load of rhinoceroses is not near the maximum but you should still consider that you will likely need to put the aircraft down for refueling on each leg, which will increase the time and cost. However, the figures provided should give you at least a rough idea. Here's how they were derived, along with references as you asked:

A distance of 2530 miles at a cruising speed of 366-375 mph would equal a flight duration of approximately 7 hours. At a fuel consumption rate of approximately 2,300 liters per hour at a current average fuel cost of $1.38 per liter that would be $3,174 per hour or a total of $22,218 for the seven-hour flight. This is the lower end of the range.

Cruising speed: 366-374 mph/318-325 ktas (I used the figures for the C-130H model, not the oldest and not the newest)
Fuel consumption:

Johannesburg (Tambo) International JNP
Addis Ababa Bole ADD

DISTANCE 2534.85 Miles/4,079.44 Km
Distance: 2,195.06 (NM) / 2,526.57 (MI) / 4,065.25 (KM)

Average $1.38/liter
I was unable to find a reliable current index for aviation fuel prices in Africa but derived the average cost I used (USD$1.38 per liter) from several current news reports of fuel prices in several different African countries, including these sources: ($1.17-$1.72/liter. Note the C-130 uses Jet-A1 fuel, not Avgas) (N150=$1.27/liter)

Other references to operating costs:
"Fuel consumption rate: 200 gallons per minute."
"Tim Taylor, the public information officer for the 302nd Reserve Airlift Wing at Peterson, said flying a C-130 costs about $3,600 an hour, excluding crew costs."

Other measurements

I hope you will find the information fully answers your question. If not or you need further assistance, please ask for a clarification and I will be happy to respond.



Sun 24 Aug 2008 - 6:08 am UTC

Accepted and rated


Hi Byrd,

Thanks for your reply.
The fuel cost estimate seems reasonable @ 2300 liter or 22-26k$ for 7 hours.
The blogspot link is clearly off with the fuel consumption @ 200
gallon/minute (not sure what they had in mind here), but the total
operating cost @ $3600/hour based on 2006 fuel cost seems reasonable.
I estimate that fuel is now about 0.6$/liter more expensive than
in 2006, so that adds an extra $0.6*2300=1400$/hour, and brings the
total operating cost to about 5k$/hour, or about 35k$ for one leg of
the trip. The difference between this total of 35k$ and your 22-26k$
fuel cost only seems reasonable as an estimate of the write-off or
component-replacement cost on the aircraft.
The need for refueling seems highly sensitive to the precise model and
the load, but according to this link it may be possible to make it in
one go with 10 tones or cargo

I had hoped for anything not exceeding 100k$ for both ways,
and that seems feasible.

Thanks again,



Sun 24 Aug 2008 - 7:41 pm UTC

Uclue Researcher Answer clarification


Hi Dr. Kuma,

Thank you for accepting my answer though I fear I posted too hastily. I should point out that I did not rely on the bloggers when calculating the costs, but only posted those links for interest and because they somewhat agreed with the general numbers I was getting by using distance, range data and fuel prices. However, I should have waited to post as I am thinking much more clearly today.I still can't locate an index for aviation fuel prices just in Africa, but I should have just used the figures from the International Air Transport Association (IATA) current global price indexes. For the entire Africa/Middle East region that price currently stands at $3.14/gallon which rounds out to $.83 per liter. Prices have come down! Check it out at

And yes, the FAS range data given of 5200-2500 miles with a cargo load of 0-25,000 lbs. doe make it seem as though you might be able to make the trip one-way in one go, and that is definitely within the realm of possibility. In fact, in a best case scenario, using their data showing maximum usable fuel of 60k lbs. which is roughly 8772 gallons (jet fuel weighs approximately 6.84 lbs per gal) at a consumption rate of approximately 608 gal/hr. (2300 liters/hr) you might even make the whole round trip on one load of fuel. But I think that's pretty unrealistic.

It is absolutely true that there is a myriad of factors other than time and distance affecting range, so the data given are of necessity ideals/averages, and of course in the real world we don't often operate on ideals and averages. That's why it's so hard to even come up with average fuel consumption figures because they're based on range which is so variable, and is what makes this type of general estimating so difficult. Therefore while you're tweaking costs upward to more nearly reflect reality, I think it would be prudent to tweak range figures as well, just in case.

So then, at the current rates, a 7 hour flight with an average fuel consumption of 2300 liters/hour at a cost of $.83 per liter would be around $13,363 one way or $26,726 for the round trip. Of course any oil-related prices are volatile and so chances are good they'll go back up. But even conservatively figuring a 16-hour round trip at a fuel consumption rate of 2500 liters/hour at a per-liter price double what it is today ($1.66 per liter) would still make the round trip $66,400 which is closer to your estimate of $35k one way. Average per hour costs between these two figures range from about $2-4200.

Either way, it does appear that even with expected rising prices the aircraft operating cost for your proposed operation should definitely be under $100,000 at the current time.


Here are a few more references you might find useful:


Sun 24 Aug 2008 - 7:42 pm UTC

Uclue Researcher Comment


Also, thank you for the tip. I hadn't yet seen that when I posted my clarification and I do appreciate it very much!


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