DAYTON, Ohio -- The C-141 "Hanoi Taxi" taxis past the National Museum of the United States Air Force after its final flight on May 6, 2006. The "Hanoi Taxi" was the first aircraft to return Vietnam prisoners of war to the United States on Feb. 12, 1973. (U.S. Air Force photo by Jeff Fisher)
DAYTON, Ohio (5/6/06) -- The C-141 "Hanoi Taxi" final flight crew. The aircraft made its final flight to the National Museum of the United States Air Force in 2006. (U.S. Air Force photo by Jeff Fisher)
DAYTON, Ohio (5/6/06) -- Maj. Gen. (Ret.) Charles Metcalf, director of the National Museum of the United States Air Force, addresses the audience after the C-141 "Hanoi Taxi" made its final flight. Ceremony speakers included (from left to right) Gen. Duncan McNabb, commander of Air Mobility Command, Gen. (Ret.) William Begert, vice president of business development and international programs in the Military Engines unit at Pratt & Whitney, Lt. Gen. John Bradley, commander of Air Force Reserve Command, and Ross Reynolds, vice president of air mobility programs at Lockheed Martin. (U.S. Air Force photo by Jeff Fisher)
The C-141A, built between 1963 and 1967, was the USAF's first jet aircraft designed to meet military standards as a troop and cargo carrier. For more than 40 years, the C-141 Starlifter performed numerous airlift missions for the US Air Force. Its great range and high speed enabled the Starlifter to project American military power and humanitarian efforts rapidly across the globe.
The Starlifter originated in a 1959 requirement for a fast, strategic transport aircraft that would serve as a "work horse" for rapidly moving U.S. Army troops anywhere in the world. The C-141 made its maiden flight on Dec. 17, 1963.
The C-141A became operational in April 1965, with the 1501st Air Transport Wing at Travis Air Force Base, Calif., but it became apparent that the aircraft had much greater potential. Therefore, the USAF lengthened the C-141A's fuselage by 23.3 feet and added aerial refueling capability. The first modified "stretch" C-141B arrived at Altus Air Force Base, Okla., in December 1979, and Lockheed completed the modification program in 1982. The C-141B's additional cargo capacity gave the USAF the equivalent of an additional 90 C-141As. Later modifications strengthened the wings and added extra service life to the Starlifter. From 1997 to 2001, C-141Bs were converted to C-141Cs by the addition of advanced avionics.
In July 1986 the USAF began transferring its C-141s to the Air Force Reserve and Air National Guard forces, and last two Starlifters were retired from service in 2006. Over its four decade career, the Starlifters logged more than 10 million hours, including a record set in 1981 when a C-141 flew 67,000 pounds of cargo non-stop from New Jersey to Saudi Arabia, refueling three times in flight.
Despite its many military and humanitarian missions, none was more significant than the mission flown by the Hanoi Taxi, the aircraft on display at the National Museum of the United States Air Force. This C-141 airlifted the first American prisoners of war to freedom from Gia Lam Airport in Hanoi, North Vietnam, on Feb. 12, 1973. The Hanoi Taxi flew two missions into Hanoi, carrying out 78 POWs and two civilian returnees to the Philippines, and four missions from the Philippines to the United States, carrying 76 ex-POWs.
Afterward, 66-0177 continued flying missions around the world, and over three decades of service, the Hanoi Taxi flew more than 40,000 hours and underwent many changes. Originally built as a C-141A model, its fuselage was lengthened by 23.3 feet in the early 1980s, and the USAF redesignated it as a C-141B. Later, the aircraft had its wings strengthened, and from 1997 to 2001, all C-141Bs were converted to C-141Cs by the addition of advanced avionics. In 2002 the Hanoi Taxi received its final programmed depot maintenance, and it was repainted as it appeared when it went to Hanoi in 1973 -- except for the Red Cross. It flew in these markings for the next four years.
In May 2004 the Hanoi Taxi again tapped the timelines of history when Maj. Gen. Edward J. Mechenbier, himself a POW repatriated from Vietnam, flew it back to Vietnam to repatriate the remains of two American service members killed in action.
The Hanoi Taxi was retired to the museum in May 2006.
TECHNICAL NOTES: Crew: (Five or six) Two pilots, two flight engineers and one loadmaster and one navigator (added for airdrops); two flight nurses and three medical technicians added for aeromedical evacuation missions Armament: None Engine: Four Pratt & Whitney TF33-P-7 turbofan engines with 20,250 lbs. thrust each Maximum speed: 500 mph Load: Either 200 troops, 155 paratroops, 103 litters and 14 seats, or 68,725 lbs of cargo Range: Unlimited with in-flight refueling