The Cumberland Post

The Cumberland Post
My Backyard, Six Miles from the Cumberland River

Monday, November 11, 2013

The C 141 Starlifter Project

First of all on Veterans Day 2013, I thank all veterans past and present, dead or still living, for their service. I especially thank my son Barry, my Dad, my brother Dave, my grandson Erich, my uncle Leonard, my uncle Sid, my uncle David, my uncle Will, and my great grandpa Hiram. 
I know Veterans Day is meant to honor people who've served in our country's military. This post is about a person who served his country, but it's also about a machine. The two veterans in question are (1) our 35th president, John F. Kennedy, a decorated veteran of WWII, and (2) a magnificent airplane which proceeded through development and many years of service after JFK approved its production.

Although the picture below of JFK with Defense Secretary Robert McNamara and General Maxwell Taylor is from 1963, it illustrates and underlines the point that John Kennedy, a navy hero in WWII, understood the importance of having a strong military to protect the United States. Throughout his congressional career he portrayed himself as "tough on communism" and in the 1960 campaign blasted the Eisenhower-Nixon administration for losing Cuba to the communists and for allowing the missile gap between the U. S. and the soviets to develop.
So, it was only natural that John Kennedy's first official act after he became president was to order the production of the aircraft that was eventually designated the Lockheed C-141 Starlifter. This important military carrier had a distinguished career that lasted over  forty years.

The C-141 was designed and built to replace our aging fleet of troop carriers and cargo planes -- planes such as the C-119 Flying Boxcar...
and a plane known as "old shaky," the Douglas C-124 Globemaster II...

Plans for the C-141 (initially given the factory designation Model 300) were developed by Lockheed and pieces of the plane were produced in plants around the country, including a wing part here in my home town, Nashville, TN...

And the first C-141 prototype rolled out of the plant in Marietta, GA, in August of 1963 and flew in December of that year. The first production run brought the first operational planes to the military in 1965...

The C-141 was huge; it was over 168 feet in length and had a wingspan of 160 feet...

Wiki gives the following stats concerning this important plane:
General characteristics
  • Crew: 5–7: 2 pilots, 2 flight engineers, 1 navigator, 1 loadmaster (a second loadmaster routinely used, in later years navigators were only carried on airdrop missions); 5 medical crew (2 nurse, 3 medical technician) on medevac flights
  • Length: 168 ft 4 in (51.3 m)
  • Wingspan: 160 ft 0 in (48.8 m)
  • Height: 39 ft 3 in (12 m)
  • Wing area: 3,228 ft² (300 m²)
  • Empty weight: 144,492 lb (65,542 kg)
  • Max. takeoff weight: 342,100 lb (147,000 kg)
  • Powerplant: 4 × Pratt & Whitney TF33-P-7 turbofans, 20,250 lbf (90.1 kN each) each

The famed "Hanoi Taxi" was a specific C 141, one of the earliest planes to become operational in the '60s. Besides other less glamorous assignments during its early service, this plane (not yet called the Hanoi Taxi) ferried Bob Hope to his USO shows in Vietnam. This C 141 also gained its famous name later when it was selected to ferry the just released POWs (airman and future senator John McCain was among them) from Hanoi to Clark Air Base in the Philippines. Some of the returning prisoners left their names on the flight panel and those names inspired the "Hanoi Taxi" nickname.

Sometimes the ordinary day to day actions and signings of U. S. presidents are forgotten by the general public because they don't have a lot of immediate impact on people's lives. President Kennedy's first act, approving production of the C-141, is not one of those actions. This plane has played an important role in American history with its contributions extending to Desert Storm and Desert Shield.  And in 2005 when Hurricane Katrina was approaching New Orleans, a C-141, actually the same C-141 "Hanoi Taxi" mentioned earlier, evacuated hundreds of people before the storm hit.

In the comments to a video on You Tube called the "Mighty C-141," a pilot who identifies himself as John Tompkins has this to say about the plane:
Greatest airplane ever, biggest adventure ever. I thought all airplanes flew like that. Little did I know that they did not. Absolutely the best.
President Kennedy made many important speeches and took several significant actions during his brief tenure in office. Many people, I'm sure, are glad he approved the significant C-141 Starlifter project, a plane that served the nation well during its forty+ year career.

In addition to JFK and the Starlifter, I salute all veterans of the U. S. Armed Forces on this Veterans Day in 2013.


  1. Ah, the -141. I did a few thousand miles in several of those things and they were a WHOLE lot better... faster, quieter, and much more comfortable... than having to fly in the back of a C-130. You even got used to riding backwards. ;-)

    That aircraft served a whole helluva lot longer than I did, even though we both began in '63. Amazing, eh?

  2. Great blog! What a monster of an aircraft.

  3. I found your website the other day and after reading a handful of posts, thought I would say thank you for all the great content.
    Keep it coming! I will try to stop by here more often.To get new information visit here
    Hopewell Township
    South Brunswick
    Hamilton Township