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C-119 Flying Boxcar
Role Military transport aircraft
Manufacturer Fairchild Aircraft
First flight November 1947
Introduced December 1949
Retired 1974
Primary users United States Air Force
United States Navy
United States Marine Corps
Produced 1949-1955
Number built 1,183
Developed from C-82 Packet
Variants XC-120 Packplane
Fairchild AC-119
French Union paras dropping over Dien Bien Phu in 1954. (C-119)
C-119C Serial 51-2640 781st Troop Carrier Squadron / 465th Troop Carrier Wing
AC-119G gunship

The Fairchild C-119 Flying Boxcar (Navy designation R4Q) was an American military transport aircraft developed from the World War II 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 Fairchild 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.[1]

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 Liberator 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 Cyclone engines in place of Fairchild's use of the Pratt & Whitney R-4360 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. Kaiser would build 71 C-119s at Willow Run in 1952 and 1953 (s/n 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 eventually turned over to the South Vietnamese Air Force.

The AC-119G "Shadow" variant was fitted with four six-barrel 7.62 mm mini-guns, armor plating, flare-launchers, and night-capable infrared equipment. Like the AC-130 it would 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 20 mm cannon, improved avionics, and two underwing-mounted General Electric J85-GE-17 turbojet engines, adding nearly 6,000 lbf 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 Westinghouse J34 turbojet engine in a nacelle above the fuselage.



Number Built: 1183 consisting of:

  • 1112 built by Fairchild
  • 71 built by Kaiser-Frazer Corp

Two additional airframes were built by Fairchild for static tests

Operational history

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.

From 1951 to 1962, C-119C, F and G models served USAFE and FEAF as the first-line Combat Cargo units, and did yeoman work as freight haulers with the 60th Troop Carrier Wing, the 317th TC Wing and the 465th TC 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 C-130s, but the units of the former 60th TC Wing, 10th, 11th and 12th Troop Carrier Squadrons continued to fly C-119s until 1962, the last non-reserve operational units to fly the "Boxcars."

The USAF Strategic Air Command had C-119 Flying Boxcars in service from 1955 - 1973.

The C-119s saw service with the 456th Troop Carrier Wing which was attached to the Strategic Air Command from 25 April 1955 to 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 in Hawaii performed several aerial recoveries of film-return capsules during the early years of the Corona spy satellite program. On 1960-08-19 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.[2]

The C-119 would go on to see extensive service in Vietnam, 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.[3]

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.

After its retirement from active duty, many C-119s and R4Qs soldiered on in the US Navy, Air Force Reserve and Air National Guard until the mid-1970s, and until recently they were still in use by the Taiwanese Air Force. The last military use of the C-119 by the United States ended in 1974 when a single squadron of Navy R4Qs based at Selfridge ANG Base near Detroit, Michigan, and two squadrons based at Naval Air Station, Long Beach, California replaced their R4Qs with newer aircraft.

Many were provided to other nations as part of the Military Assistance Program, including Belgium, Brazil, Ethiopia, India, Italy, Nationalist China, 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.

Civilian use

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 U.S. 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. Many of these aircraft wound up being provided to museums across the U.S. in a complicated - and ultimately illegal - scheme where stored USAF Lockheed C-130A Hercules transports and Navy P-3 Orion anti-submarine patrol aircraft were provided to the contractors in exchange for the C-119s.[4] (See U.S. Forest Service airtanker scandal.) After the end of the Airtanker days many C119s flew in Alaska for Northern Pacific Transport, Gifford Aviation, Stebbins&Ambler Air Transport, and DeltaAssociates. They can be used for public service contracts, like hauling building materials to the 260 villages in the bush of Alaska that have no road access whatsoever to the highways. Everything is flown into those villages, from dumptrucks to toilet paper.


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 engine, 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.
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 gun ships, 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 version of the C-119C, 39 built.
United States Navy version of the C-119F, later re-designated C-119F, 58 built.


  • Brazillian Air Force received 13 former USAF aircraft.
    • 2nd Squadron of the 1st Group of transporting troops
 Republic of China(Taiwan)
  • Italian Air Force received 40 new aircraft, five transferred from United Nations and 25 surplus USAF aircraft.
 South Vietnam
United Nations
  • Five former USAF aircraft donated, operated by the Indian Air Force then passed to the Italian Air Force.
 United States


A number of C-119s have been preserved in museums. Two are airworthy in Palmer, Alaska ( They can be used for public service contracts, like hauling building materials to the 260 villages in the bush of Alaska that have no road access to the highways. Everything is flown into those villages, from dump trucks to toilet paper.

  • C-119J serial number 51-8037 is on display at the National Museum of the United States Air Force in Dayton, Ohio. This aircraft was specially modified for the mid-air retrieval of space capsules reentering the atmosphere from orbit. On 19 August, 1960 this aircraft made the world's first mid-air recovery of a capsule returning from space when it "snagged" the parachute lowering the Discoverer XIV satellite at 8,000 feet altitude 360 miles southwest of Honolulu, Hawaii. The aircraft was delivered to the Museum in November 1963. It is on display outside, on the Museum's ramp.[5]
  • C-119C serial 48322 - At the Milestones of Flight Museum, Fox Field, Lancaster, California. Last operated by Hemet Valley Flying Service as Tanker 82, registered N13745.
  • C-119C serial 49-199 - At the Castle Air Museum, Atwater, California. Transferred to the U.S. Forest Service after retirement from the Air Force.
  • C-119 (serial number unknown) Flying J Ranch near Pima, Arizona in Graham County.
  • C-119 (serial number unknown) Battle Mountain, Nevada airport. Former tanker with "Jet-Pack" modification.
  • C-119G serial 51-8024L - At the Strategic Air and Space Museum, Ashland, Nebraska.[6]
  • C-119 - Zenith Aviation's Tanker 140 has been donated to the Hagerstown Aviation Museum.[7]
  • C-119C - serial 50-0128 Pope AFB, N. Carolina marked as 50-0182
  • C-119C - serial 49-0157 Pima Air Museum, Tucson, AZ
  • C-119 - IK450 Indian Air Force Museum, Palam, New Delhi. This unit is fitted with an external jet-pack.[8]
  • C-119G serial 254, CP46/OT-CEH (Belgium Airforce), ex 53-8151. At the Royal Army and Military History Museum in Brussels, Belgium. [9] Photos on
  • C-119G serial 10690, CP10/OT-CAJ (Belgian Airforce), ex 51-2701. At Melsbroek AB Photos on
  • R4Q-2 - (serial number unknown) Painted in United States Air Force colors to depict it as a C-119 on static display at the Fort Campbell, Ky museum.
  • C-119G serial 52-5850 - At the Grissom Air Museum, located in Peru, Indiana.
  • C-119G serial FAB 2304, Brazilian Air Force which is exposed in the 26th Infantry Battalion of paratroops in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.
A former Canadian C-119G at the Air Mobility Command Museum.
  • C-119G serial FAB 2305, Brazilian Air Force which is exposed in "Museu Aerospacial" (Musal) Base Aérea dos Afonsos, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.
  • C-119G serial 52-2107 - At the Hill Aerospace Museum, near Ogden, Utah.
  • R4Q Packet outside of the base exchange on Marine Corps Air Station Miramar.
  • C-119G RCAF serial 22118 (c/n 10870, originally C-119F), is at the USAF Air Mobility Command Museum since 1991. After its RCAF service it was converted into an air tanker. It was restored as a C-119G, fake serial 51-2881 [10]
  • C-119G - Equipped with radar nose, on static display at the 1941 Historical Aircraft Group in Geneseo, New York
  • C-119 - Pate Museum of Transportation (to be closed 12/25/09) on US377 South of Fort Worth, Tx

Specifications (C-119)

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

General characteristics

  • Crew: 5
  • Capacity:
    • 62 troops or
    • 35 stretchers
  • Payload: 10,000 lb (4,500 kg) of cargo
  • Length: 86 ft 6 in (26.37 m)
  • Wingspan: 109 ft 3 in (33.30 m)
  • Height: 26 ft 6 in (8.08 m)
  • Wing area: 1,447 ft² (134.4 m²)
  • Empty weight: 40,000 lb (18,000 kg)
  • Loaded weight: 64,000 lb (29,000 kg)
  • Max takeoff weight: 74,000 lb (34,000 kg)
  • Powerplant:Pratt & Whitney R-4360-20[11] [12] radial engines, 3,500 hp (2,611 kW each) each


Popular culture

The 2004 film Flight of the Phoenix employed a C-119 instead of the C-82 Packet featured in the original 1965 film. (The airplane 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 water bomber also makes several appearances at the training base in the 1989 movie "Always".

See also

Related development

Comparable aircraft

Related lists



PD-icon.svg 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 (Stamford, UK: Key Publishing) (No. 66, November/December 1996): pp. 52—60. ISSN 5450 0143 5450.  
  • Swanborough, F.G.; Peter M. Bowers (1963). United States Military Aircraft since 1909. London: Putnam.  
  • United States Air Force Museum. Wright-Patterson AFB, Ohio: Air Force Museum Foundation. 1975.  

External links


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