Louisville pilot honored after saving 6 airmen in C-130 incident

A Louisville pilot was given the Distinguished Flying Cross Saturday, three years after officials say he saved six fellow airmen when a blade snapped on a C-130.
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LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WAVE) -- A Louisville pilot was given the Distinguished Flying Cross Saturday, three years after officials say he saved six fellow airmen when a blade snapped on a C-130.

U.S. Air Force Chief of Staff General David L. Goldfein was on hand at the Kentucky Air Guard on Saturday to present Lt. Col. John T Hourigan with the award.

Officials say Hourigan shut the engine off at less than 300 feet above the ground, before executing an emergency landing.

"Lacking any instrumentation information available during training and simulator profiles, Major Hourigan quickly eliminated all plausible causes for the condition while simultaneously preparing for a forced landing," his citation read. "Without recourse to any codified procedures, he bravely exercised independent judgment and directed a shutdown of an engine based on the throttle variation he felt in his hand. With the aircraft continuing to decelerate and losing altitude, the engine shutdown was accomplished flawlessly 277 feet above ground.

Hourigan said he and his crew thought their plane was coming apart when it started falling and shaking in Owensboro. He's being called a hero for preventing a catastrophic event.

The Lieutenant Colonel's young son was overwhelmed with emotion after watching his dad get the Distinguished Flying Cross Saturday .

Hourigan saved five crew members and a $30 million aircraft on July 15, 2016.

"When I looked out the window, it looked as though I was going to have to set it down in the field," Hourigan said. "I had two scenarios that played through in my head. One with a good ending and one with a bad ending. That right there, when I was able to put the airplane down on the ground, I couldn't wait to touch the ground again."

Hourigan later found out a broken blade caused the plane to shake violently. He said this was a situation his crew has never experienced or practiced for.

"The magnitude of the mechanical malfunction was elevated to the Joint Chiefs of Staff, resulting in modifications to depot- and unit-level Technical Orders affecting the global C-130 fleet," his citation said.

Hourigan's father was also in the air force and his young son is an aspiring pilot.