Fairchild C-119 Flying Boxcar

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C-119 Flying Boxcar
RoleMilitary transport aircraft
ManufacturerFairchild Aircraft
First flight17 November 1947
IntroductionDecember 1949
Retired1995 Republic of China Air Force[1]
Primary usersUnited States Air Force
United States Navy
United States Marine Corps
Number built1,183
Developed fromFairchild C-82 Packet
VariantsFairchild XC-120 Packplane
Fairchild AC-119
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This article is about the post-WW II transport aircraft. For the nuclear bomb equipped B-29 bomber, see Bockscar.
C-119 Flying Boxcar
RoleMilitary transport aircraft
ManufacturerFairchild Aircraft
First flight17 November 1947
IntroductionDecember 1949
Retired1995 Republic of China Air Force[1]
Primary usersUnited States Air Force
United States Navy
United States Marine Corps
Number built1,183
Developed fromFairchild C-82 Packet
VariantsFairchild XC-120 Packplane
Fairchild AC-119
French Union paratroops dropping from a C-119 over Dien Bien Phu in 1954.
C-119C Serial 51-2640, 781st Troop Carrier Squadron / 465th Troop Carrier Wing.
AC-119G gunship

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, litter patients, 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.[2]

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 Major radial 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[citation needed]. 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 Chase C-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 Vietnamese Air Force in the 1970s.

The AC-119G "Shadow" gunship variant was fitted with four six-barrel 7.62 mm miniguns, armor plating, flare launchers, and night-capable infrared equipment. Like the AC-130 that would succeed it, the AC-119 would prove to be a potent weapon. The AC-119 was made more deadly by the introduction of the AC-119K "Stinger" version, which featured the addition of two General Electric M61 Vulcan 20 mm cannon, improved avionics, and two underwing-mounted General Electric J85-GE-17 turbojet engines, adding nearly 6,000 lbf (27 kN) of thrust.

Other major variants included the EC-119J, used for satellite tracking, and the YC-119H Skyvan prototype, with larger wings and tail.

In civilian use, many C-119s feature the "Jet-Pack" modification, which incorporates a 3,400 lbf (15,000 N) Westinghouse J34 turbojet engine in a nacelle above the fuselage.


Number Built: 1,183 consisting of:

Two additional airframes were built by Fairchild for static tests

Operational history[edit]

403rd TCW C-119s drop the 187th RCT over Korea, 1952.
C-119 in flight

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[4][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 USAF Strategic Air Command had C-119 Flying Boxcars in service from 1955 to 1973.

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.[5]

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.[6] 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, the incredible success of the Douglas AC-47 Spooky but limitations of the size and carrying capacity of the plane led the US Air Force 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 Air Force 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 launcer, 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 Forde to change the name to "Shadow" on 1 December 1968.[7] 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.

Fairchild C-119G of the Royal Belgian Air Force in 1965

After retirement from active duty, substantial numbers of C-119s and R4Qs soldiered on in the U.S. Navy, U.S. Marine Corps, the Air Force Reserve and the Air National Guard until the mid-1970s, the R4Qs also being redesignated as C-119s in 1962. The last military use of the C-119 by the United States ended in 1974 when a single squadron of Navy Reserve C-119s based at Naval Air Facility Detroit/Selfridge Air National Guard Base near Detroit, Michigan, and two squadrons based at Naval Air Station Los Alamitos, California replaced their C-119s with newer aircraft.

Many C-119s were provided to other nations as part of the Military Assistance Program, including Belgium, Brazil, Ethiopia, India, Italy, Jordan, Taiwan, and (as previously mentioned) South Vietnam. The type was also used by the Royal Canadian Air Force, and by the United States Navy and United States Marine Corps under the designation R4Q until 1962 when they were also redesignated as C-119.

Civilian use[edit]

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.[8] (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.
As C-119F with different propellers, 480 built.
AC-119G Shadow
C-119G modified as gunships, 26 conversions.
Re-designed version with extended wing and modified tail surface, one converted from a C-119C.
C-119F and G converted with a modified rear fuselage, 62 conversions.
Conversions for satellite tracking.
Used for aircraft equipped for medical evacuation role.
Reconnaissance aircraft used by the Vietnamese Air Force
One C-119G modified with two General Electric J85 turbojets in underwing pods.
Five C-119Gs modified as YC-119K.
AC-119K Stinger
C-119G modified to C-119K standard as gunships, 26 conversions.
Modified variant of the C-119Gs, 22 conversions.
XC-120 Packplane
A USMC R4Q-1 of VMR-252 in 1950.
One C-119B converted with removable cargo pod.
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.


 Republic of China (Taiwan)
 South Vietnam
 United Nations
 United States

Accidents and incidents[edit]


A number of C-119s have been preserved in museums:

South Korea
Taiwan, Republic of China
United States
A former Canadian C-119G at the Air Mobility Command Museum.

Specifications (C-119)[edit]

C-119 Flying Boxcars from the 403rd Troop Carrier Wing.

General characteristics


Popular culture[edit]

The 2004 film Flight 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 2014 animated film Planes: Fire & Rescue features a retired USAF C-119 named Cabbie, voiced by Dale Dye, who airdrops smokejumpers into wildfires.

See also[edit]

Related development
Aircraft of comparable role, configuration and era
Related lists



  1. ^ 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.[3]
  2. ^ Other sources state that the eight Flying Boxcars used on the bridge mission were U.S. Marine Corps R4Qs.
  3. ^ Another view of the C-119. Also note the external jet-pack on top of the fuselage for jet-assisted takeoff (JATO).[20]
  4. ^ alternatively Wright R-3350-85 "Duplex Cyclone" radials, 2,500 hp (1,900 kW) each
  5. ^ C-119F and R4Q-2 had R3350-85-30WA, R3350-89-36W, or R3350-89A-36W engines.[32]


  1. ^ "Fairchild C-119 Flying Boxcar." globalsecurity.org. Retrieved: 19 May 2011.
  2. ^ Swanborough and Bowers 1963, pp. 262–263.
  3. ^ Mossman, Billy C., EBB AND FLOW: NOVEMBER 1950 - JULY 1951, p. 137.
  4. ^ Rumley, Chris, "314th delivers bridge to combat troops." litterok.af.mil, 18 May 2010. Retrieved: 12 May 2011.
  5. ^ "Discoverer 14 - NSSDC ID: 1960-010A." NASA. Retrieved: 28 June 2011.
  6. ^ Grandolini 1996, pp. 52–60.
  7. ^ pp.213-214 Chinnery, Philip Any Time, Any Place Airlife Publishing Ltd 1994
  8. ^ "United States v. Fuchs" U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals, Appeal 9810173, filed July 6, 2000. Retrieved: 28 June 2011.
  9. ^ Italian C-119
  10. ^ "Aircraft accident Fairchild C-119C-22-FA Flying Boxcar 51-2560 Mt. McKinley, AK<". Aviation Safety Network. Retrieved 25 October 2012. 
  11. ^ Officer, Commanding. "Historical Report for period 1 July 1952 to 31 December 1952". Retrieved 25 October 2012. 
  12. ^ "Aircraft accident Fairchild C-119C-23-FA Flying Boxcar 51-2570 between Anchorage, AK and Kodiak, AK". Aviation Safety Network. Retrieved 25 October 2012. 
  13. ^ Hamilton, Harry D. Signal Charley (2005) ISBN 978-1-4116-5508-9 p.18
  14. ^ Gero, David B. "Military Aviation Disasters: Significant Losses Since 1908". Sparkford, Yoevil, Somerset, UK: Haynes Publishing, 2010, ISBN 978-1-84425-645-7, p. 78.
  15. ^ "1949 USAF Serial Numbers". Joebaugher.com. Retrieved 2010-06-25. 
  16. ^ Ranter, Harro and Fabian I. Lujan. "ASN Aircraft accident Fairchild C-119F-FA Flying Boxcar 51-2680 Bahamas." Aviation Safety Network, 2010. Retrieved: June 28, 2011.
  17. ^ "C-119G." Royal Army and Military History Museum Collection, Scramble (magazine). Retrieved: 28 June 2011.
  18. ^ "C-119G photo." wreckhunters.be. Retrieved: 28 June 2011.
  19. ^ "C-119G photos." wreckhunters.be. Retriev3d; 28 June 2011.
  20. ^ "Picture_024.jpg." Fotopic.Net. Retrieved: 28 June 2011.
  21. ^ "South Korea 60th Anniversary of the Korean War." naver.com. Retrieved: 28 June 2011.
  22. ^ http://www.cafa.edu.tw/english/tour/index-1.asp?m=13&m1=13&m2=158&gp=&id=160
  23. ^ "N1394N." flyingboxcar.com. Retrieved: 28 June 2011.
  24. ^ United States Air Force Museum Guidebook 1975, p. 53.
  25. ^ "Fairchild C-119C Flying Boxcar." Pima Air and Space Museum. Retrieved: 28 June 2011.
  26. ^ "C-119G, S/N 51-8024L." Strategic Air & Space Museum. Retrieved: 28 June 2011.
  27. ^ "C-119." Hagerstown Aviation Museum. Retrieved: 28 June 2011.
  28. ^ "Aircraft of the Mid-Atlantic Air Museum. maam.org. Retrieved: 28 June 2011.
  29. ^ "C-119G." amcmuseum.org. Retrieved: 28 June 2011.
  30. ^ "Plane finds home at the Veterans Museum". Hood County News. 31 October 2012. Retrieved 15 September 2014. 
  31. ^ "Fairchild C-119G Flying Boxcar." Aerospace Museum of California. Retrieved: 21 April 2012.
  32. ^ C-119F/R4Q-2 Flight Handbook T.O. 1C-119F-1, 1 August 1956.


 This article incorporates public domain material from websites or documents of the United States Air Force. Website of origin: USAF Museum

  • Grandolini, Albert. "French 'Packets': Fairchild C-119 Boxcars in French Indochina". Air Enthusiast, Volume 66, November/December 1996, pp. 52–60. ISSN 5450-0143-5450.
  • Swanborough, F.G. and Peter M. Bowers. United States Military Aircraft since 1909. London: Putnam, 1963.
  • United States Air Force Museum Guidebook. Wright-Patterson AFB, Ohio: Air Force Museum Foundation. 1975.

External links[edit]