flying boxcar

C-119 Flying Boxcar

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 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.

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 J-85-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, with larger wings and tail. Another variant is the "Jet-Pack" version, 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

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.

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 Squardon 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.

The C-119 would go on to see extensive service in Vietnam, beginning in 1954 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.

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

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. (See U.S. Forest Service airtanker scandal.)


The XC-82B modified to production standards, later became C-119A, then EC-119A as an electronics test bed.C-119B
Production variant with two R-4360-30 engines, 55 built.C-119C
As C-119B with dorsal fins added and tailplane extensions removed, 303 built.YC-119D
Project for a version with three-wheeled landing gear and removable pod, was designated XC-128A, none built.YC-119E
Project for a version of the 119D with two R-3350 engine, was designated XC-128B, none built.YC-119F
One C-119C modified with two R-3350-85 engines.C-119F
Production variant, 256 built for the USAF and RCAF.C-119G
As C-119F with different propellers, 480 built.AC-119G Shadow
C-119G modified as gunships, 26 conversions.YC-119H
Re-designed version with extended wing and modified tail surface, one converted from a C-119C.C-119J
C-119F and G converted with a modified rear-fuselage, 62 conversions.EC-119J
Conversions for satellite tracking.MC-119J
Used for aircraft equipped for medical evacuation role.YC-119K
One C-119G modified with two R-3350 engine and two J-58 underwing fitted turbojets.C-119K
Five C-119Gs modified as YC-119K.AC-119K Stinger
C-119G modified to C-119K standard as gun ships, 26 conversions.C-119L
Modified variant of the C-119Gs, 22 conversions.XC-120 Packplane
One C-119B converted with removable cargo pod.C-128
Initially used designation for YC-119D and YC-119E variant.R4Q-1
United States Navy version of the C-119C, 39 built.R4Q-2
United States Navy version of the C-119F, later re-designated C-119F, 58 built.



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

Specifications (C-119)

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.

See also


''Website of origin: USAF Museum

External links

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