The Joint Base Charleston Air Park was dedicated on September 18, 1987, to provide an appreciation of the base's history and to honor those who served here over the years. The air park began with the restoration and display of a C-47 "Skytrain" and now includes a C-121 "Constellation," a C-124C "Globemaster II," and a C-141B "Starlifter." Over the years, Joint Base Charleston has been home to some of the world's finest military aircraft. Listed below are brief descriptions of the three aircraft displayed in the air park and the C-47 located next to the base flag pole.
Few aircraft are as well known or were so widely used for so long as the C-47 or "Gooney Bird" as it was affectionately nicknamed. The aircraft was adapted from the DC-3 commercial airliner that appeared in 1936. The first C-47s were ordered in 1940 and by the end of World War II, the Army Air Force had procured 9,348. The C-47 routinely airlifted troops and cargo and during combat towed gliders and airdropped paratroopers into enemy territory. The C-47 is 64 feet long, with a wing span of 95 feet, and it can carry 27 passengers or 10,000 pounds of cargo. It has a range of 1,000 miles.
Assigned to the 437th Troop Carrier Group, now known as the 437th Operations Group, the C-47's most notable achievement for the group during World War II was its participation in Operation OVERLORD or D-Day--the Allied invasion of Normandy. One of the group's four flying squadrons the 85th Troop Carrier Squadron was the first C-47 squadron to launch for D-Day, towing gliders loaded with the 101st Airborne Division and their combat equipment. The group continued to use the C-47 throughout the war, conducting countless airlift, airdrop, resupply, and air evacuation missions.
The C-47 "Skytrain" on display near the base flag pole was given to Joint Base Charleston in August 1982. During restoration it was painted to replicate "The Chattanooga Choo Choo" originally assigned to the 83rd Troop Carrier Squadron, another World War II 437th Troop Carrier Group flying squadron. The real aircraft was listed as missing in Burma on October 21, 1944. The static display C-47 was acquired in 1982 from the Confederate Air Force and is marked with the group's D-Day paint scheme. Although restoration efforts were extraordinary, the aircraft on display is not an exact replica.
Span: 95 ft Length: 64 ft 5 in
Height: 16 ft 11 in Weight: 33,000 lbs loaded
Armament: None Engines: 2 Pratt & Whitney R-1830s of 1,200 hp each
Cost: $138,000 Crew: 6 Serial #: Painted as 21-00972
Maximum Speed: 232 mph Cruising Speed: 175 mph
Range: 1,513 miles Service Ceiling: 24,450 ft
The C-121 "Constellation" is the military version of the like-named commercial transport. During World War II, the Army Air Force purchased 22 early-model "Connies," designated C-69. Between 1948 and 1955, the U.S. Air Force ordered 150 C-121s for use as cargo and passenger carriers, executive transports, and airborne early warning aircraft.
From September 1955 to February 1963, the Lockheed Constellation operated from Joint Base Charleston with the 1608th Air Transport Wing. In fact, the 1608th was the only Military Air Transport Service (MATS) unit to fly the 32 C-models built. While assigned to Charleston AFB, the C-models or "Super Connies" could carry 106 passengers, 40,000 pounds of cargo, or 75 stretchers. The C-121's most notable achievements while at Charleston was the airlift of Hungarian refugees to the U.S. and the airlift of U.S. military troops to the Suez Canal, the Congo, and Lebanon. The aircraft eventually was retired from active service in 1967 and transferred to the Reserve and Air National Guard units. By 1975, all C-121s had left military service.
The successful restoration and display of the C-47 in 1982 sparked the base to attempt to acquire other aircraft flown at Joint Base Charleston. The "bone yard" at Davis-Montham AFB, Arizona, had four C-121Cs in storage, and by 1985, the USAF Museum had approved the base's loan request for one of these aircraft. After borrowing various components and parts, a team of active duty, Reservists, and retirees restored the aircraft now on display to flyable status in only 13 days. The costs for the entire team was less than $6,000. A crew, once qualified in C-121s, had been assembled from different bases. The flight to Joint Base Charleston on June 10, 1985, in a sense, reenacted the aircraft's first appearance 30 years earlier.
Span: 123 ft Length: 116 ft 2 in
Height: 24 ft 9 in Weight: 133,000 lbs maximum
Armament: None Engines: 4 Wright R-3350s of 3,400 hp each
Cost: $2,647,000 Serial #: 54-0180
Maximum Speed: 330 mph Cruising Speed: 255 mph
Range: 4,000 miles Service Ceiling: 33,600 ft
C-124C "Globemaster II"
The C-124 evolved from the earlier Douglas C-74. To facilitate cargo handling, the C-124 featured clamshell loading doors and hydraulic ramps in the nose and an elevator under the aft fuselage. It required a crew of eight and was capable of handling such bulky cargo as tanks, field guns, bull dozers, and trucks. It could also be converted into a transport capable of carrying 200 fully-equipped soldiers in its double-decked cabin or 127 litter patients and their attendants.
Most often referred to as "Ol' Shakey" because of its continuous in-flight vibrations, the C-124 replaced the C-54 as the primary airlifted of MATS and was the predecessor of the C-141 "Starlifter." The aircraft was assigned to Joint Base Charleston from November 1957 until May 15, 1969. While here, the C-124 flew relief missions to Chile, returned space capsules to Cape Canaveral, and flew supplies to Antarctica. During its 25 years of service, the C-124 served as the U.S. Air Force's primary airlift/airdrop aircraft.
The C-124 on display arrived on the base in August 1986 from the Florence Air and Missile Museum, Florence, South Carolina.
Span: 174 ft 1 in Length: 130 ft
Height: 48 ft 4 in Weight: 216,000 lbs maximum
Armament: None Engines: 4 Pratt & Whitney R-4360s of 3,800 hp each
Cost: $1,646,000 Serial #: 52-1072
Maximum Speed: 320 mph Cruising Speed: 200 mph
Range: 2,175 miles Service Ceiling: 34,000 ft
The C-141 "Starlifter" fulfilled the vast spectrum of airlift requirements through its ability to airlift combat forces over long distances, deliver those forces and their equipment either by air, land or airdrop, resupply forces, and transport the sick and wounded from the hostile area to advanced medical facilities.
The C-141B is a "stretched" C-141A with in-flight refueling capability. The stretching of the Starlifter consisted of lengthening the planes 23 feet 4 inches. The added length increased the C-141 cargo capacity by about one-third, for an extra 2,171 cubic feet. The lengthening of the aircraft had the same overall effect as increasing the number of aircraft by 30 percent. The C-141A, built between 1963 and 1967, was Air Mobility Command's first jet aircraft designed to meet military standards as a troop and cargo carrier. The development of the B-model was the most cost-effective method of increasing the command's airlift capability.
A universal air refueling receptacle on the C-141, with the ability to transfer 23,592 gallons in about 26 minutes, means longer non-stop flights and fewer fuel stops at overseas bases during worldwide airlift missions.
With more than 40 years of service and nearly nine million flying hours, the C-141 force has a proven reliability and long-range capability. In addition to training, worldwide airlift and combat support, the C-141 has amassed a laudatory record in response to humanitarian crises.
The C-141, with its changeable cargo compartment, can transition from rollers on the floor for palletized cargo to a smooth floor for wheeled vehicles to aft facing seats or sidewall canvas seats for passengers, quickly and easily, to handle over 30 different missions.
The first C-141A, delivered to Tinker AFB, Oklahoma, in October 1964, began squadron operations in April 1965. The C-141 was the first jet transport from which U.S. Army paratroopers jumped, and the first aircraft to land in the Antarctic. The first C-141B was received by the Air Force in December 1979. Conversion from A- to B-models was completed in 1982. Conversion to the C-models began in 1997 and was completed in 2001.
The last active duty C-141B retired September 16, 2004, at McGuire AFB, New Jersey. Air Mobility Command began transferring C-141s to the Air Reserve and Air National Guard forces in July 1986. There are 20 Reserve C-141Cs are stationed at Wright-Patterson AFB, Ohio, and March Air Reserve Base, California.
C-141s were assigned to Joint Base Charleston from August 14, 1965, until the last aircraft departed on July 15, 2000. The fuselage on display in the air park was retired in September 1993 with a formal ceremony. retired Brig. Gen. Thomas R. Mikolajcik, 437th Airlift Wing commander, piloted the aircraft on its last flight. This particular fuselage was the first C-141 to reach 40,000 flying hours.
Primary Function: Cargo and troop transport
Contractor: Lockheed-Georgia Co.
Power Plant: 4 Pratt & Whitney TF33-P-7 turbofan engines
Thrust: 20,250 pounds, each engine
Wingspan: 160 ft
Length: 168 ft 4 in
Height: 39 ft 3 in
Cargo Compartment: Height, 9 ft 1 in; Length, 93 ft 4 in; Width, 10 ft 3 in
Cargo Door: Width, 10.25 ft; Height, 9.08 ft
Speed: 500 mph (Mach 0.74) at 25,000 feet
Ceiling: 41,000 feet at cruising speed
Range: Unlimited with in-flight refueling
Maximum Takeoff Weight: 323,100 lbs
Load: Either 200 troops, 155 paratroops, 103 litters and 14 seats, or 68,725 lbs cargo
Unit Cost: $47.4 million (fiscal 2002 constant dollars)
Crew: 5 or 6: 2 pilots, 2 flight engineers, and 1 loadmaster (add 1 navigator for airdrops)
2 flight nurses and 3 medical technicians added for aeromedical evacuation missions
Date Deployed: C-141A: October 1964; C-141B: December 1979; C-141C: October 1997
(Current as of June 2023)