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C-119 Flying Boxcar
American military transport aircraft built 1948-55
The Fairchild C-119 Flying Boxcar (Navy and Marine Corps designation R4Q) was an American military transport aircraft developed from the World War II-era Fairchild C-82 Packet, designed to carry cargo, personnel, litterpatients, and mechanized equipment, and to drop cargo and troops by parachute. The first C-119 made its initial flight in November 1947, and by the time production ceased in 1955, more than 1,100 C-119s had been built. Its cargo-hauling ability and unusual twin-boom design earned it the nickname "Flying Boxcar".
The Air Force C-119 and Navy R4Q was initially a redesign of the earlier C-82 Packet, built between 1945 and 1948. The Packet provided service to the Air Force's Tactical Air Command and Military Air Transport Service for nearly nine years during which time its design was found to have several serious problems. All of these were addressed in the C-119.
In contrast to the C-82, the cockpit was moved forward to fit flush with the nose rather than its previous location over the cargo compartment. This resulted in more usable cargo space and larger loads than the C-82 could accommodate. The C-119 also featured more powerful engines, and a wider and stronger airframe. The first C-119 prototype (called the XC-82B) first flew in November 1947, with deliveries of C-119Bs from Fairchild's Hagerstown, Maryland factory beginning in December 1949.
In 1951, Henry J. Kaiser was awarded a contract to assemble additional C-119s at the Kaiser-Frazer automotive factory located in the former B-24 plant at Willow Run Airport in Belleville, Michigan. Initially, the Kaiser-built C-119F differed from the Fairchild aircraft by the use of Wright R-3350-85 Duplex Cyclone engines in place of Fairchild's use of the Pratt & Whitney R-4360 Wasp Majorradial engine. Kaiser built 71 C-119s at Willow Run in 1952 and 1953 (AF Ser. No. 51-8098 to 51-8168) before converting the factory for a planned production of the ChaseC-123 that never eventuated. The Kaiser sub-contract was frowned upon by Fairchild, and efforts were made through political channels to stop Kaiser's production, which may have proven successful. Following Kaiser's termination of C-119 production the contract for the C-123 was instead awarded to Fairchild. Most Kaiser-built aircraft were issued to the U.S. Marine Corps as R4Qs, with several later turned over to the South Vietnameseair force in the 1970s.
The aircraft saw extensive action during the Korean War as a troop and equipment transport. In July 1950, four C-119s were sent to FEAF for service tests. Two months later, the C-119 deployed with the 314th Troop Carrier Group and served in Korea throughout the war.
In December 1950, after People's Republic of China Expeditionary People's Volunteer Army troops blew up a bridge [N 1]at a narrow point on the evacuation route between Koto-ri and Hungnam, blocking the withdrawal of U.N. forces, eight U.S. Air Force C-119 Flying Boxcars flown by the 314th Troop Carrier Group.[N 2] were used to drop portable bridge sections by parachute. The bridge, consisting of eight separate sixteen-foot long, 2,900-pound sections, was dropped one section at a time, using two parachutes on each section. Four of these sections, together with additional wooden extensions were successfully reassembled into a replacement bridge by Marine Corps combat engineers and the US Army 58th Engineer Treadway Bridge Company, enabling U.N. forces to reach Hungnam.
From 1951 to 1962, C-119C, F and G models served with U.S. Air Forces in Europe (USAFE) and Far East Air Forces (FEAF) as the first-line Combat Cargo units, and did yeoman work as freight haulers with the 60th Troop Carrier Wing, the 317th Troop Carrier Wing and the 465th Troop Carrier Wing in Europe, based first in Germany and then in France with roughly 150 aircraft operating anywhere from Greenland to India. A similar number of aircraft served in the Pacific and the Far East. In 1958, the 317th absorbed the 465th, and transitioned to the C-130s, but the units of the former 60th Troop Carrier Wing, the 10th, 11th and 12th Troop Carrier Squadrons, continued to fly C-119s until 1962, the last non-Air Force Reserve and non-Air National Guard operational units to fly the "Boxcars."
Perhaps the most remarkable use of the C-119 was the aerial recovery of balloons, UAVs, and even satellites. The first use of this technique was in 1955, when C-119s were used to recover Ryan AQM-34 Firebee unmanned targets. The 456th Troop Carrier Wing, which was attached to the Strategic Air Command (SAC) from 25 April 1955 - 26 May 1956, used C-119s to retrieve instrument packages from high-altitude reconnaissance balloons. C-119s from the 6593rd Test Squadron based at Hickam Air Force Base, Hawaii performed several aerial recoveries of film-return capsules during the early years of the Corona spy satellite program. On 19 August 1960, the recovery by a C-119 of film from the Corona mission code-named Discoverer 14 was the first successful recovery of film from an orbiting satellite and the first aerial recovery of an object returning from Earth orbit.
The C-119 went on to see extensive service in French Indochina, beginning in 1953 with aircraft secretly loaned by the CIA to French forces for troop support. These aircraft were generally flown in French markings by American CIA pilots often accompanied by French officers and support staff. The C-119 was to play a major role during the siege at Dien Bien Phu, where they flew into increasingly heavy fire while dropping supplies to the besieged French forces. The only two American pilot casualties of the siege at Dien Bien Phu were James B. McGovern Jr. and Wallace A. Buford. Both pilots, together with a French crew member, were killed in early June, 1954, when their C-119, while making an artillery drop, was hit and crippled by Viet Minh anti-aircraft fire; the aircraft then flew an additional 75 miles (121 km) into Laos before it crashed.
During the Sino-Indian War of 1962, the C-119 was extensively used to supply Indian forces. President Kennedy allowed sales of spare C-119 on a priority basis upon request by the Indian government.
During the Vietnam War, the incredible success of the Douglas AC-47 Spooky but limitations of the size and carrying capacity of the plane led the USAF to develop a larger plane to carry more surveillance gear, weaponry, and ammunition, the AC-130 Spectre. However, due to the strong demands of C-130s for cargo use there were not enough Hercules frames to provide Spectres for operations against the enemy. The USAF filled the gap by converting C-119s into AC-119s each equipped with four 7.62 minigun pods, a Xenon searchlight, night observation sight, flare launcher, fire control computer and TRW fire control safety display to prevent incidents of friendly fire. The new AC-119 squadron was given the call-sign "Creep" that launched a wave of indignation that led the Air Force to change the name to "Shadow" on 1 December 1968. C-119Gs were modified as AC-119G Shadows and AC-119K Stingers. They were used successfully in both close air support missions in South Vietnam and interdiction missions against trucks and supplies along the Ho Chi Minh Trail. All the AC-119G Gunships were transferred to the Republic of Vietnam Air Force starting in 1970 as the American forces began to be withdrawn.
C-119C shown in Hemet Valley Flying Service livery as Tanker 82 before being retired; now at the Milestones of Flight Museum in Lancaster California. (note the jet pod above the fuselage).
C-119G instrument panel
A number of aircraft were acquired by companies who were contracted by the United States Forest Service (USFS) and the Bureau of Land Management to provide airtankers for fighting wildfires. Others were pressed into civilian cargo service. After a series of crashes, the age and safety of the aircraft being used as airtankers became a serious concern, and the U.S. C-119 airtanker fleet was permanently grounded in 1987. Eventually, many of these aircraft were provided to museums across the U.S. in a complicated - and ultimately illegal - scheme where stored USAF Lockheed C-130 Hercules transports and Navy Lockheed P-3 Orion anti-submarine patrol aircraft were provided to the contractors in exchange for the C-119s. (See U.S. Forest Service airtanker scandal.) After the end of the airtanker days, many C-119s flew in Alaska for Northern Pacific Transport, Gifford Aviation, Stebbins & Ambler Air transport, and Delta Associates, being used for public service contracts, such as hauling building materials to the villages in the bush of Alaska that have no road access.
Several aircraft were observed, as late as 1990, by paratroopers with the 6th Infantry Division, to be in Forest Service use as jump planes for "smokejumper" firefighters in Alaska. These aircraft were boarded and toured, by the Army paratroopers, at Ft Wainwright, Alaska.
Initially used designation for YC-119D and YC-119E variant.
United States Navy & United States Marine Corps version of the C-119C, 39 built.
United States Navy and United States Marine Corps version of the C-119F, later re-designated C-119F, 58 built.
Civilian modified versions
Steward-Davis Jet-Pak C-119
Civil conversions of Fairchild C-119s with 3,400 lbf (15 kN) Westinghouse J34-WE-36 dorsal jet-pods. Increased take-off weight of 77,000 lb (35,000 kg). 29 jet-pak kits were supplied to the US civil market and 27 to the Indian Air Force.
A single C-119 conversion, with quick-attach J34 jet-packs. A single conversion in 1967.
Ethiopian Air Force received eight former USAF aircraft using Military Aid Program funding, after modification to C-119K standard with underwing auxiliary jets they were delivered in two batched, five in 1970 and three in 1971. Two former Belgian Air Force C-119Gs were acquired as spares source.
Italian Air Force operated 40 C-119G new aircraft as Mutual Defence Assistance Program, five C-119G former USAF and transferred to United Nations in December 1960 and 25 C-119J surplus USAF / ANG aircraft.
15 November 1952: Flight callsign "Warmwind Three" (AF Ser. No. 51-2570), part of Exercise Warm Wind, flew off course and was lost. 20 pronounced dead.
23 June 1953: Shortly after a ground control approached (GCA) radar monitored takeoff from Ashiya Air Base, Japan, a U.S. Air Force C-119 Flying Boxcar (AF Ser. No. 49-0161) turned to a heading 005 degrees magnetic (dm) and began a normal climb through the overcast. The pilot then reported that the C-119 may have scraped the tail skid on takeoff; additionally all the left seat (pilot side) gyroscopic instruments (Gyros) were not operational. A few seconds later, the pilot requested immediate GCA vector to Ashiya AB, stating that co-pilot would have to fly the GCA approach from the right seat. The GCA was continuously tracking them and reported its location as 12 miles north of Ashiya AB, instructing co-pilot to turn right to a heading of 210 degrees. Then 49-161 disappeared from radar. All on board were lost
17 July 1953: Shortly after takeoff from NAS Whiting Field, Florida, a United States Marine Corps R4Q-2 transporting 40 NROTC midshipmen apparently lost power in the port engine, and crashed and burned after hitting a clump of trees. Six injured men were found in the wreckage, but only two midshipmen and one of the six crewmen survived.
10 August 1955: Two aircraft of a nine-plane USAF flight on a training mission collided over Edelweiler, Germany. One of the C-119s had developed engine trouble and lost altitude, causing it to strike another aircraft in the formation. A total of 66 people on board the two aircraft were killed.
26 October 1956, Air Force aircraft number 51-8026 departed Sewart Air Force Base, Tenn. at [9:17 a.m.] on Oct. 26, 1956 via airways to Olmsted Air Force Base, [Middletown] Penn. on a cargo airlift mission. The aircraft crashed in mountainous terrain in the Tuscarora State Forest near Shippensburg, PA approximately 22.5 nautical mile west of the Kingston Fan Marker at approximately [3:15 p.m.] killing all four aboard. 
27 March 1958: USAF C-119C, AF Ser. No. 49-0195, collided in midair with USAF Douglas C-124C Globemaster II, AF Ser. No. 52-0981 over farmland near Bridgeport, Texas, USA, killing all 15 on the Globemaster and all 3 on the Flying Boxcar. The two transports crossed paths over a VHF omnidirectional range (VOR) navigational radio beacon during cruise flight under instrument flight rules in low visibility. The C-124 was on a north-northeasterly heading flying at its properly assigned altitude of 7,000 feet (2,100 m); the C-119 was on a southeasterly heading, and the crew had been instructed to fly at 6,000 feet (1,800 m), but their aircraft was not flying at this altitude when the collision occurred.
12 December 1961: Two Belgian C-119 aircraft collided mid-air due to a lack of coordination at flight control, while attempting to land at Chièvres Air Base. All occupants of both aircraft were killed (13 in total).
49-0132 - C-119C on static display at the Pima Air & Space Museum in Tucson, Arizona. This aircraft also carries civilian registration N13743 and is currently in the markings of "Tanker 81" of Hemet Valley Flying Service of Hemet, California. This aircraft is currently on outdoor display and will be restored to original USAF markings.
49-0157 - C-119C on static display at the Pima Air & Space Museum in Tucson, Arizona.
RCAF 22118 - C-119G on static display at the Air Mobility Command Museum at Dover Air Force Base in Dover, Delaware. After its RCAF service it was converted into an air tanker. Delivered to the museum in 1991, it was restored as a C-119G, fake Air Force Serial No. 51-2881.
^The Chinese actually blew up three bridges in succession at the same point: the original concrete span, a wooden replacement, and a third M-2 steel treadway portable bridge installed by U.S. combat engineers.
^Other sources state that the eight Flying Boxcars used on the bridge mission were U.S. Marine Corps R4Qs.
^C-119F and R4Q-2 had R3350-85-30WA, R3350-89-36W, or R3350-89A-36W engines.