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.
Despite its many military and humanitarian missions, none was more
significant than the mission flown by the Hanoi Taxi,
the aircraft whose photographs shown here. 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.
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