C-141C Starlifter

The "Hanoi Taxi"


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.  (NMUSAF)

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