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  • Writer's pictureroy blewett

Fairchild Model 205 Provider (C-123)

Fairchild C-123K Provide N3836A 54-0610 Hill
C-123K N3836A on display at Hill Aerospace Museum in Utah

The Chase Aircraft Company was set up in 1943 to design and build heavy assault cargo gliders for the United States Army. Research and development continued into the post-war years even though the glider was effectively obsolete as a weapon of war, resulting in the all-metal XG-18 and the larger XG-20. Although neither type was ordered into production, evaluation of a powered version of the XG-18 led the United States Air Force (USAF) to commission Chase to produce powered versions of the XG-20, under the designation C-123. With a choice of turbojet or radial-engined versions, the Air Force selected the radial and placed an order for five pre-production aircraft. Chase did not have the capacity for mass production until, in 1951, Willow-Run based automobile manufacturer, Kaiser-Frazer bought 49% of its stock, and the Air Force contracted for 300 aircraft. However, in June 1953, Kaiser-Frazer was stripped of the C-123 production contract after a Senate hearing into the the second-source C-119 contract raised concerns about the company's pricing. A re-tendering process was initiated and this was won by Fairchild. Notwithstanding this setback, Kaiser-Frazer completed its take-over of Chase but with no aircraft to build dissolved the company on 31 January 1954. Chase’s Trenton headquarters and production facilities were subsequently purchased by Michael Stroukoff, Chase Aircraft’s founder, who used them to build three more development aircraft, based on the C-123.

All but the final 18 Providers were delivered to the USAF, the type’s short-field performance proving especially useful in Vietnam, where it was used in a number of roles. Most notoriously, the C-123 was used for defoliation and crop destruction duties, and this sprayer variant remained in service until June 1986 as part of the Federal mosquito control programme. Among export customers, only Venezuela received C-123s from new, although transfers of USAF aircraft were made to South Vietnam, Saudi Arabia, Thailand and, latterly, to various central American air forces during CIA-backed operations against the Sandanista regime in Nicaragua. The Provider is probably unique in being the only aircraft to have flown under jet, turboprop and radial power and as a glider. One remains active on the warbird circuit in the United States, with at least one other in prospect.

First flight: 14 Oct 49 (47-0786)

Production: 313, including 2 prototypes converted by Chase Aircraft at West Trenton, NJ, followed by: 5 pre-production aircraft by Kaiser-Frazer at Ypsilanti-Willow Run, MI; 303 by Fairchild at Hagerstown, MD; and 3 by Stroukoff at West Trenton, NJ.

First delivery: 1955

Last delivery: not known

Variants: XC-123 - prototype converted from XG-20 and equipped with 2 Pratt & Whitney R-2800-23 Double Wasp radials (1 built);

XC-123A - prototype converted from XG-20 and equipped with 4 General Electric J47 turbojets (the first US jet transport to fly, on 21 Apr 51; 1 built);

C-123B - pre-production and production version powered by R-2800-99Ws, featuring re-designed fin and rudder, and accommodation for up to 61 troops (307 built);

YC-123D - Stroukoff-built development aircraft, based on XC-123 but equipped with boundary layer control system for improved take-off and landing performance (1 built);

YC-123E - Stroukoff-built development aircraft, based on XC-123, for operation off water (1 built)

YC-123H - Fairchild-built rough field version, featuring two General Electric J85 booster engines in underwing pods (1 built);

YC-134A - Stroukoff-built development aircraft, based on XC-123, with redesigned main gear and Wright R-3350-89A Cyclone engines (1 built).

Conversions included: HC-123B - C-123B modified with nose-mounted AN/APS-158 search radar for the US Coast Guard (8 converted);

C-123J - C-123B modified for operation in Alaska, with wingtip-mounted Fairchild J44 booster turbojets (10 converted; one was further modified by the Federal Aviation Administration with continuous-run Continental J69 turbojets);

C-123K - C-123B modified with larger wheels, anti-skid brakes and J85 turbojets mounted beneath the wings (183 converted);

NC-123K - C-123K modified by LTV for BLACK SPOT night surveillance mission in Vietnam (2 converted);

UC-123K - C-123K modified for RANCH HAND defoliation and TRAIL DUST crop destruction duties in Vietnam (34 converted);

VC-123K - C-123K modified as a VIP transport for Gen. William Westmoreland, Commander of US operations in Vietnam (1 converted);

C-123T - C-123B re-engined with Allison T56-A-7 turboprops by Mancro Aircraft Company, Compton/Woodley, CA, for the Royal Thai Air Force (1 converted, but project abandoned prior to delivery).

Other modifications of the C-123 were made for use in various clandestine roles during the Vietnam War.

Fairchild Provider survivors
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