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  • Writer's pictureroy blewett

Douglas C-124 Globemaster II and C-133 Cargomaster

C-124C 53-0050, photographed on display at Hill Aerospace Museum in August 2017.

C-124 Globemaster:

Japan’s surprise attack on Pearl Harbor in December 1941 brought an unprepared United States into World War II. The United States Army Air Force’s airlift fleet consisted mainly of C-47 Skytrain and the C-53 Skytrooper aircraft, neither of which were capable of carrying large payloads great distances. To remedy the capability gap, the Air Force entered into negotiation with Douglas and on 25 June 1942 placed a contract for 50 C-74 Globemasters. Despite the apparent urgency, the C-74 did not make its first flight until 5 September 1945, three days after Japan’s surrender and the end of the war. The programme was cancelled three months later, with only 14 aircraft delivered. Operating the C-74 convinced the Air Force of the need for strategic airlift and Douglas was approached in 1947 to develop a replacement. The fifth C-74 was extensively modified as the prototype, combining a new double-deck fuselage with the C-74’s wing, tail surfaces and powerplant. Production orders followed, and the C-124 saw extensive service during both the Korean and Vietnam Wars, the type eventually being retired in September 1974. No C-74 survives (although one features in the 1969 film, The Italian Job), and, almost uniquely, all C-124 survivors are in museums.

First flight: 27 Nov 49 (42-65406, a converted C-74)

Production: 448, at Long Beach, CA

First delivery: May 50, to US Air Force

Last delivery: May 55, to US Air Force

Variants: YC-124 - prototype, converted from a C-74 (1 built, see above, subsequently re-engined with R-4360-65A and re-designated YC-124A);

C-124A - initial production aircaft, featuring double-deck fuselage with capacity for up to 200 troops or 74,000 lbs of cargo and clam-shell doors in the nose and built-in double ramp (204 built);

C-124C - improved version with nose-mounted weather radar and wingtip combustion heaters, features retrofitted onto most C-124As (243 built).(The ‘B version was a projected turboprop-powered air refueling tanker, the KC-124B.)

C-133 Cargomaster:

The C-133 was the first propeller-turbine driven transport aircraft to enter United States Air Force service. It was developed against against a February 1953 specification for a strategic airlifter to complement the larger C-132 already in development. (The C-132 specification called for an aircraft capable of lifting a 200,000 lb. load, almost three times that of the C-124, but the project was cancelled in 1957 when it became clear that turboprop technology was not sufficiently developed to power an aircraft of that size.) Lessons identified from the C-132 project were ploughed into the C-133, leading to development of the higher payload C-133B. The last Cargomasters left United States Air Force service prematurely in 1971 as a result of fatigue problems. Four were acquired by a non-profit organisation, the Foundation for Airborne Relief but the unresolved fatigue issue meant the type was unable to gain Federal Aviation Adminstration approval to operate them freely. The last active C-133 was operated on a highly restrictive certificate, permitting only Government or Government-agency contracted work in rural Alaska. It was donated to the Jimmy Doolittle Air & Space Museum in 2008. The re-discovery of a ground instructional C-133 at Atlantic City, referenced in Survivors 2017, has proved short-lived as it has been replaced by a Lockheed TriStar and seems likely to have been scrapped. The loss of this, and the C-133 at Rantoul, means that only six C-133s survive.

First flight: 23 Apr 56 (c/n 44705, 54-0135)

Production: 50, at Long Beach, CA

First delivery: 24 Aug 57, to US Air Force (c/n 44705, 54-0135)

Last delivery: 11 Apr 61, to US Air Force (c/n 45587, 59-0536)

Variants: C-133A - main production version, with accommodation for up to 200 troops or 100,000 lbs. of cargo, powered by 4 Pratt & Whitney T34-P-3 turboprops or, in later examples, T34-P-7W water-injected turboprops (35 built); C-133B - revised version, powered by more powerful T34-P-9W engines allowing a payload increase to 110,000 lbs. (15 built)

Douglas C-124 and C-133 survivors
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