Leader Blues

Friday, July 10, 2009

TOP STORY >> Children’s book celebrates C-130s

Since 1953, Lockheed Martin has cranked out 2,330 C-130 Hercules airplanes from its Marietta, Ga., plant. The cargo plane is the longest-running production military aircraft in aviation history and is beloved by aircraft enthusiasts — so much so that Beth Mahoney of Little Rock has written a self-published children’s book on the C-130 titled, “Meet Robby the C-130.” It focuses on explaining military deployment to children, especially those whose parents are in the military.

On Thursday morning, Mahoney and her family were given a special tour of Marietta’s Lockheed plant, where the C-130 goes through final assembly.

Beth Mahoney’s husband, Air Force Master Sgt. C.J. Mahoney, is a C-130 flight engineer stationed at Little Rock Air Force Base.

They have three children, Rachel, 6, Alex, 7, and the book’s namesake, Robby, 9.

The long partnership between Lockheed and the military inspired her to write the book, Beth Mahoney said.

“It was basically a comfort zone for kids whose parents were deployed,” she said of writing the book. “They’re very familiar with the C-130 in all branches of the service that have to deal with the C-130.”

The colorful book, with illustrations by Zachary Porter, tells the story of Robby, a C-130 airplane, who informs readers what he does during deployments.

He also tells of the importance of his work and explains the job of soldiers. The book is geared toward children in pre-kindergarten through fourth grade.

The author, who runs her own nonprofit group for military children called Kids of America’s Heroes, said the C-130 is an icon for children whose parents work in the military and for Lockheed.

“All of them seem to have this love of the C-130,” she said. “It actually looks like a happy-go-lucky aircraft. For instance, the F-16 has this fear about it. (The C-130) doesn’t look too threatening.”

Lockheed spokesman Peter Simmons said the company has been pleased with the book.

“Lockheed Martin is delighted that Beth Mahoney took one of our company’s iconic programs, the C-130 Hercules, as the basis for her book,” Simmons said. “We wish Beth every success with this and any subsequent books.”

The Mahoneys’ son Robby is “infatuated” with aircrafts, which explains why the book was named after him.

“He gets a lot of recognition at school,” Beth Mahoney said.

The third-grader and his siblings were fascinated watching the large C-130s being assembled inside Lockheed’s massive 76-acre plant, where about 700 employees work on the cargo plane.

Lockheed plans to make 14 C-130s this year, said Greg Ulmer, deputy C-130 program manager. Each takes 10 months to assemble in their final stages in Marietta and a total of 36 months from start to finish.

“Day by day, there is a list of instructions that tell the mechanics what they have to do and the sequence they have to do them in,” Ulmer said to the kids.

Beth Mahoney said her husband and her father, a 22-year Air Force veteran, were her biggest help in researching the book.

She said she has traveled to schools and military bases promoting the book and said there are plans to create a series of such stories for kids.

“It actually went over so well with the children that we’re looking at making Robby a stuffed animal and a cartoon character,” she said.

Courtesy of Marcus E. Howard.www.mdjonline.com