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Several thousand examples of the Beech C-45 Expediter light transport were used by the US and Allied forces during the second world war. Its two 450hp Pratt & Whitney Wasp Junior engines gave it a top speed of just over 200mph and a range of 1,400 miles. It normally carried seven passengers plus 2 crew.

This one is kept airworthy and was seen on a wet day at Duxford in May 2005.

The Douglas C-47 Skytrain (known to the Royal Air Force as the Dakota) was the world's most prolific transport aircraft. Apart from civil aircraft built from 1935 onwards, over ten thousand were built for various air forces in the second world war. Its rugged reliability and ease of operation made it a firm favourite with commercial operators afterwards, and some are even in commercial service in the 21st century. Normal accommodation was 28 people, though with a payload of 12,000 lb more could be carried when necessary.

This very smart Dakota of the Royal Aircraft Establishment was at Bournemouth in August 1984.

The Douglas C-54 (civil designation DC-4) was originally developed in 1938 as a 52 seat commercial transport. It saw widespread service during the second world war with the USAAF, or with the Navy (who designated it R5D). Powered by four 1,350hp Pratt & Whitney Twin Wasp radial engines, it had a maximum speed of 275mph and range of 3,900 miles. Length was 93 feet 10 inches and wing span 117 feet 6 inches. 1,245 of all versions were built.

This one was at North Weald in December 2005.

The Fairchild C-119 Flying Boxcar was a development of the C-84 Packet, which was just too late to enter service in the second world war. It had twin tail booms to facilitate using the rear loading doors for large cargo and paratroops. It was powered by two huge Wright Cyclone radial engines and has a payload of 20,000 lb.

Very few survive. This one was seen on a very wet and gloomy day at Manston in November 1982.

The Lockheed C-130 Hercules has become the benchmark military transport worldwide since it first flew in 1954. Several thousand of many versions have been built, including some for unusual special missions such as  water bombing as an airborne firefighter. It is powered by four General Electric T56 turboprops, which give it a top speed of 340mph over a range of 2,450 miles.

The top picture shows a C-130H of the Hellenic Air Force at Fairford, July 2007. Note the picture of Hercules slaying the Nemean Lion on the tail! The lower picture shows a C-130J, modified and updated in the early 2000s, at Fairford in July 2005.

Though entering service later than the Hercules, the Convair C-131 Samaritan was an older technology transport. They were a military development of the Convair 240 & 340 series of airliners, and were widely used by the US forces as troop transports until the early 1980s.

This one was at Mildenhall in May 1977.

The Boeing VC-137 was a converted Boeing 707 commercial airliner, used by the President of the USA as his personal transport and known worldwide as `Air Force One'. There were in fact two of them, so there was always a spare!

This one visited Newcastle in 1977, bringing then US President Jimmy Carter on a visit to the North-East of England.

The Lockheed C-140 JetStar was a commercial executive jet, converted for use as a transport for senior officers. It is unusual for such a relatively small aircraft in having four engines, making it very safe but quite thirsty: hence the huge bullet-shaped fuel tanks carried in the middle of the wings.

This one visited Mildenhall in August 1980.

This very weak photograph is the best I could find of a Lockheed C-141 Starlifter. Designed as a very long range strategic freighter, it first flew in 1964 and was the USAF's first pure jet freighter. 285 were built. They can take 150 troops or 70,000lb of equipment for over 4,000 miles. Structural problems in the late 1970s were solved, and at the same time many were converted into stretched C-141B configuration.

This one was at the Greenham Common air show in June 1981.

The Grumman C-2 Greyhound was designed specifically for the `carrier on-board delivery' (COD) role, as a replacement for the C-1 Trader. Its mission is to ferry essential equipment and personnel onto aircraft carriers at sea. The bizarre tail configuration is to give it extra lateral stability at low speed and high weight on approaches to a pitching aircraft carrier deck.

This one was at Mildenhall in June 1984. Note also the C-118 in the background.

When the Lockheed C-5 Galaxy first flew in 1968, it was the world's largest aircraft by some way. It has a stunning 120 ton payload, and can carry 345 troops for up to 3,000 miles. With lighter loads it can go for 6,500 miles. It is now the USAF's standard long range heavy transport. It is no longer the largest aircraft in the world, having been beaten by the Antonov An124 Ruslan, the An225 Mriya (Dream), and as of 19 January 2005 by the Airbus A380.
The McDonnell Douglas C-9A Nightingale is basically a civil DC-9 airliner adapted for military service by the US Navy. It is specially adapted for ambulance flights, and is equipped to carry up to 40 patients, together with basic life support services. The Air Force's C-9B Skytrain is a more normal transport version. Essential statistics are the same as for the DC9-30 series.

This C-9A was at Mildenhall, August 1980.

The Beech C-12 is the military derivative of the civil Beech 200 Super Kingair. It is a light liaison aircraft operated by the US armed forces throughout the world. However, there are also several special mission variants with various types of electronic wizardry aboard. Performance is broadly similar to the earlier Kingair 100.

This one was at Mildenhall in August 1980.


The McDonnell Douglas YC-15 competed with the Boeing YC-14 for the Advanced Medium-range STOL airlifter competition in the mid 1970s. In the event neither aircraft was selected and the competition was cancelled. The YC-15 was 124 feet long, and had a wing span of 132 feet. It first flew in August 1975.its four Pratt & Whitney JT-8D engines (same as the early DC-9s) developed 16,000lb thrust, and gave it a cruising speed of 540 mph. Gross weight was 217,000lb, of which 62,000 was useful payload. Note the huge split flaps, which used the airflow from the engines to generate exceptional lift for STOL operation. Although the AMST programme itself was cancelled, much of the technology developed for the YC-15 later found its way to the very much larger C-17.

Farnborough, September 1976

The McDonnell Douglas C-17 started to replace the C-141 Starlifter from the early 1990s. It is optimised for operation into short, rough, unprepared airstrips with heavy loads. The fuselage was designed to be able to accommodate most mobile army equipment, such as tanks and helicopters, without the need for it to be substantially dismantled. The winglets on the end of the wings provide extra stability at low speed and reduced drag in higher speed cruise.

This one was at Mildenhall in the early 1990s (exact date unkown).

The effect of camouflage is graphically illustrated in this picture of a Short C-23 Sherpa at Farnborough in September 1984. The C-23 is a militarised version of the SD3-30 feederliner, used to move supplies rapidly between bases in Europe in the 1980s and early 90s.
Lockheed / Alenia C-27J Spartan: a development of the Fiat G-222, intended to complement the C-130J Hercules at the smaller end of the range.

Italian air force example seen at Fairford in July 2005.