The Douglas C-133 Cargomaster was a large cargo aircraft built between 1956 and 1961 by the Douglas Aircraft Company for use with the United States Air Force. The C-133 was the USAF's only production turboprop-powered strategic airlifter, entering service shortly after Lockheed's better known C-130 Hercules, which was known as a tactical airlifter. It provided airlift services in a wide range of applications, being replaced by the C-5 Galaxy in the early 1970s.
Design and development
The C-133 was designed to meet the requirements for the USAF's Logistic Carrier Support System SS402L for a new strategic transport. The aircraft differed considerably from the C-74 Globemaster and C-124 Globemaster IIs that had preceded it. A high-mounted wing, external blister fairings on each side for the landing gear, and rear-loading and side-loading doors ensured that access to, and the volume of, the large cargo compartment were not compromised by these structures. The cargo compartment (90 ft/27 m in length and 12 ft/3.7 m high) was pressurized, heated, and ventilated.
The Cargomasters went directly into production as C-133A; no prototypes were built. The first Cargomaster flew on 23 April 1956. The first C-133As were delivered to the Military Air Transport Service (MATS) in August 1957 and began flying MATS air routes throughout the world. Two C-133s established transatlantic speed records for transport aircraft on their first flights to Europe. The fleet of 50 aircraft proved itself invaluable during the Vietnam War, The Cargomaster soldiered on until the Lockheed C-5 Galaxy entered service in the early 1970s. The C-133 was then retired and most airplanes were cut up as soon as they were delivered to Davis-Monthan Air Force Base on their final flight in 1971.
Fifty aircraft (32 C-133A and 18 C-133B) were constructed and put into service with the USAF. A single C-133A and a C-133B were built and kept at Douglas Long Beach as "test articles." They had no construction numbers or USAF tail numbers.
The C-133 had large tail doors and side doors and a large, open cargo area. With the C-133B, the rear cargo doors were modified to open to the side (petal doors), making an opening large enough to transport ballistic missiles such as the Atlas, Titan and Minuteman more cheaply, safely and quickly than road transport. Several hundred Minuteman and other ICBMs were airlifted to and from their operational bases by C-133s. The C-133 also transported Atlas, Saturn and Titan rockets to Cape Canaveral for use as launch boosters in the Gemini, Mercury and Apollo space programs. After the Apollo capsules splashed down, they were airlifted in C-133s from Naval Station Norfolk, Virginia or Hickam AFB, Hawaii to Ellington AFB, Texas, or to California.
The C-133 was for many years the only USAF aircraft capable of hauling very large or very heavy cargo. Despite the Douglas C-124 Globemaster II's capabilities, there was much cargo that it could not carry because of its configuration with a cargo deck 13 ft (4 m) off the ground and its lower, though substantial, engine power.
By 1971, shortly before the introduction of the Lockheed C-5 Galaxy, the Cargomaster was obsolete as well as being worn out, and all were withdrawn from service in 1971. The C-133 was originally a 10,000-hour airframe that had been life-extended to 19,000 hours. Severe vibration had caused critical stress corrosion of the airframes to the point that the aircraft was beyond economical operation any longer. The Air Force managed to keep as many of the C-133 fleet in service as possible until the C-5 finally entered squadron service.
C-133s set a number of unofficial records, including records for military transport aircraft on trans-Atlantic and trans-Pacific routes. Among the longest were non-stop flights from Tachikawa Airfield, Japan, to Travis Air Force Base, California (17:20 hours on 22 May 1959, 5,150 mi/8,288 km, 297.2 mph/478.3 km/h) and Hickam Air Force Base, Hawaii to Dover Air Force Base, Delaware in about 16 hours (4,850 mi/7,805 km 303.1 mph/487.8 km/h). The only FAI officially-sanctioned record was in December 1958, when C-133A 62008 lifted a payload of 117,900 lb (53,480 kg) to an altitude of 10,000 ft (3,048 m) at Dover Air Force Base, Delaware.
1607th ATW 1501st ATW
1607th Air Transport Wing (MATS)
- Redesignated: 436th Military Airlift Wing (MAC), 8 January 1966
- 1st and 39th Military Airlift Squadrons (MAS), Dover AFB, Delaware (1956-1971) 32 C-133A Aircraft
1501st Air Transport Wing (MATS)
- Redesignated: 60th Military Airlift Wing (MAC), 8 January 1966
- 84th Military Airlift Squadron (MAS), Travis AFB, California (1959-1971) 18 C-133B Aircraft
- Cargomaster Corporation, Ted Stevens International Airport (ANC), Anchorage, Alaska
Accidents and incidents
Of 50 aircraft built, nine were lost in crashes and one was destroyed in a ground fire. The primary causes of most of the in-flight losses were most likely related to the C-133's stall characteristics.
- AF Serial No. 54-0140, 1607 ATW Destroyed 10 Jan 1965, crashed into water after takeoff from Wake Island.
- AF Serial No. 54-0146, 1607 ATW Destroyed 13 Apr 1958, crashed 26 mi (42 km) south of Dover AFB, Delaware
- AF Serial No. 56-2002, 1607 ATW Destroyed 22 Sep 1963, crashed into Atlantic Ocean near SHAD Intersection, southeast of Dover AFB, Delaware; aircraft apparently stalled near top of climb to cruising altitude
- AF Serial No. 56-2005, 1607 ATW Destroyed 13 Jul 1963 during refueling ground fire, Dover AFB, Delaware.
- AF Serial No. 56-2014, 1607 ATW Destroyed 07 Nov 1964 in crash on takeoff at CFB Goose Bay, Labrador; most probable cause was a power stall on takeoff due to icing or possibly aerodynamic instability of the aircraft
- AF Serial No. 57-1611, 1607 ATW Destroyed 27 May 1962, crashed into water near SHAD Intersection, east of Dover AFB, Delaware
- AF Serial No. 57-1614, 1501 ATW Destroyed 11 Jun 1961, crashed into water off Japan
- AF Serial No. 59-0523, 1501 ATW Destroyed 10 Apr 1963, crashed while in traffic pattern, Travis AFB, California
- AF Serial No. 59-0530, 60 MAW Destroyed 6 Feb 1970, disintegrated in flight over northwestern Nebraska, due to catastrophic propagation of old 11 in (28 cm) skin crack hidden under paint to a total length of 17 ft (5.2 m); large sections of skin peeled off into the engines and the aircraft came apart at 23,000 ft (7,010 m).
- AF Serial No. 59-0534, 1501 ATW Destroyed 30 Apr 1967, ditched off of east coast of Okinawa, Japan after propellers became stuck in fixed pitch due to electrical problems in either propeller control or propeller power circuits
Aircraft on display
- C-133A AF Ser. No. 56-2011 and 56-1998 were flown to the FAA Technical Center in Atlantic City, New Jersey. There, they were used in aircraft fire research. One remains there, while the other was scrapped in 2003.
- C-133A AF Ser. No. 56-2008 is preserved at the National Museum of the United States Air Force at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base near Dayton, Ohio. On 16 December 1958, this aircraft established a world record for propeller-driven aircraft by carrying a payload of 117,900 lb (53,479 kg) to an altitude of 10,000 ft (3,048 m). It was flown to the Museum on 17 March 1971.
- C-133A AF Ser. No. 56-2009 is at the Octave Chanute Aerospace Museum (ex-Chanute Air Force Base) in Rantoul, Illinois
- C-133B AF Ser. No. 59-0527 is in the collection of the Pima Air & Space Museum adjacent to Davis Monthan Air Force Base in Tucson, Arizona.
- C-133B AF Ser. No. 59-0536 is located at the Air Mobility Command Museum at Dover Air Force Base, Delaware. This aircraft had been at the Strategic Air and Space Museum at Offutt Air Force Base, Nebraska for many years and was donated to the AMC Museum when the SAS Museum moved in the late 1990s to its new location.
- C-133B AF Ser. No. 59-0529 was at the New England Air Museum. However, a tornado swept through the museum in 1979, badly damaging many aircraft in the outdoor display collection, including the C-133.
- Two C-133As have been in storage at Mojave Air and Space Port, California, since the 1970s . They are N201AR (ex-AF Ser. No. 56-2001) and N136AR (ex- AF Ser. No.54-0136). They are owned by Cargomaster Corporation, based at Ted Stevens Anchorage International Airport, Alaska.
- Cargomaster Corporation also previously owned C-133A N199AB (ex-AF Ser. No. 56-1999). That aircraft was never certificated by the Federal Aviation Administration for civilian operation, and could only be flown as a government aircraft, mostly for the State of Alaska. N199AB was based at ANC and was flown as a transport until 2004, carrying cargo, such as pipeline sections. It also flew frontend loader trash trucks and heavy equipment to the Alaskan bush, i.e., Point Hope, Point Lay, Wainright, Barrow, Deadhorse, Barter Island, and Anatovich Pass in April 2006. In August 2008, it flew its last flight to the Jimmy Doolittle Air & Space Museum at Travis Air Force Base, Fairfield, California, where it will be restored to USAF markings and maintained on static display.
- Norton, Bill. "Forgotten Airlifter: The Short-Lived Douglas C-133 Cargomaster". Air Enthusiast, Number 110, March/April 2004. Stamford, Lincs, UK: Key Publishing. ISSN 0143 5450. pp. 45 53.
- Francillon, Ren J. McDonnell Douglas Aircraft since 1920. London:Putnam, 1979. ISBN 0-370-00050-1.
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