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 FairchildC-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 appearance 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 would differ 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. The Wright engine was a proven design used previously on the B-29, and though it lacked the R-4360's superchargers it proved to be virtually identical in performance, and possibly superior at higher altitudes. Kaiser would build 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 would never occur. 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 Chinese PLA 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."
The C-119s saw service with the 456th Troop Carrier Wing which was attached to the Strategic Air Command (SAC) from 25 April 1955-26 May 1956. The C-119s performed aerial recovery of high altitude balloon-borne instrument packages. 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 would go 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.("Earthquake McGoon") and Wallace ("Wally") 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, and then flown some 75 miles East into Laos, where they crashed.
During the Sino-Indian War of 1962, the C-119 was extensively used for supply of Indian forces. President Kennedy allowed sales of spares of C-119 on priority basis upon request by the Indian government.
During the Vietnam War, C-119G's 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 South Vietnamese in 1973 when the American forces were withdrawn.
C-119C operated by Hemet Valley Flying Service as Tanker 82 before being retired; now at the Milestones of Flight, Museum, Fox Field, Lancaster, California (note the jet pod above the fuselage).
C-119C 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.
The XC-82B modified to production standards, later became C-119A, then EC-119A as an electronics test bed.
Production variant with two R-4360-30 engines, 55 built.
As C-119B with dorsal fins added and tailplane extensions removed, 303 built.
Project for a version with three-wheeled landing gear and removable pod, was designated XC-128A, none built.
Project for a version of the 119D with two R-3350 engines, was designated XC-128B, none built.
One C-119C modified with two R-3350-85 engines.
Production variant, 256 built for the USAF and RCAF.
7 November 1952: Flight "Gamble Chalk One" (serial number 51-2560), part of Exercise Warm Wind, flew off course and crashed in Mt. Silverthrone, British Columbia, killing 19.
15 November 1952: Called "Warmwind Three" (serial number 51-2570), this flight, 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 AB, Japan, a US Air Force Flying Boxcar (49-161) 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 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.
1954: C-119F from the 456th Trooper Carrier Wing based at Charleston AFB, SC, involved in a paratrooper exercise at Ft. Bragg, NC, crashed into a mess hall, killing numerous personnel on the ground as well as the entire flight crew, and a number of on-board paratroopers.
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.
27 March 1958: USAF C-119C 49-0195 collided in midair with USAF Douglas C-124C Globemaster II52-0981 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.
23 November 1961: Seven men died 30 miles south of Whitehorse Yukon (Canada). Three men parachuted to safety with minor injuries. A seized brake drum had caught fire and flight crew was informed by control tower of danger. Witnesses working for WP and Yukon Route railway watched as C119 slammed into the ground near mile 79.5.
26 June 1963: During a training mission near Detmold, a Belgian Air Force C-119 was accidentally shot down by British artillery. While nine paratroopers were able to jump out, 33 other paratroopers and all five crew members were killed when the aircraft crashed.
17 April 1966: A C-119 assigned to the 932nd Troop Carrier Group Reserve, crashed while turning to make a 2nd landing attempt just outside Scott Air Force Base in a farm field near O'Fallon, Illinois. The plane ended up on its nose with its tail section pointed skyward. All three men aboard were injured.
9 September 1966 A C-119 of the Air Force Reserve crashed and burned on the outskirts of San Antonio, Texas. The plane was attached to the 433 Troop Carrier Wing. It was on a routine training mission when the crash occurred shortly before 7:30 pm. Two men were killed and 4 were injured.
16 December 1968: A C-119 assigned to the 910th Tactical Air Support Group, Youngstown, Ohio, crashed shortly after its departure from Naval Station Roosevelt Roads, Puerto Rico on a fight to Homestead AFB, Florida. The wreckage was found at an elevation of 3,400 feet (1,000 m) near El Yunque. All eight occupants were killed. (Source: The Miami News, page 6-A, Dec. 17, 1968)
C-119C — AF Serial No. 49-0132 — at the Pima Air and Space Museum adjacent to Davis–Monthan Air Force Base 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.
The 2004filmFlight of the Phoenix employed a C-119 instead of the C-82 Packet featured in the original 1965 film. (The aircraft in the novel is referred to as a "Skytruck".) The studio had been offered the Hawkins & Power's flyable C-82, but the director favored the more graceful lines of the C-119 for this version. A C-119G owned by Hawkins & Powers Aviation Inc. and registered as N15501 was flown to Africa with the addition of a single jet mounted on the upper surface, which was then removed for filming. Three ex-USMC C-119Fs were also used for the various wreck scenes.
An ex-RCAF C-119 water bomber also makes several appearances at the training base in the 1989 movie Always.
^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.
^Another view of the C-119. Also note the external jet-pack on top of the fuselage for jet-assisted takeoff (JATO).
^alternatively Wright R-3350-85 "Duplex Cyclone" radials, 2,500 hp (1,900 kW) each
^C-119F and R4Q-2 had R3350-85-30WA, R3350-89-36W, or R3350-89A-36W engines.