|The sole XC-99 in its early days of operation, before a nose radome was fitted.|
|First flight||24 November 1947|
|Introduction||26 May 1949|
|Primary user||United States Air Force|
|Developed from||Convair B-36 Peacemaker|
|Total hours||7,400 hours|
|Preserved at||National Museum of the United States Air Force in Dayton, Ohio|
The Convair XC-99, AF Ser. No. 43-52436, was a prototype heavy cargo aircraft built by Convair for the United States Air Force. It was the largest piston-engined land-based transport aircraft ever built, and was developed from the B-36 bomber, sharing the wings and some other structures with it. The first flight was on 24 November 1947 in San Diego, California, and after testing it was delivered to the Air Force on 26 May 1949.
- 1 Design and development
- 2 Operational history
- 3 Retirement and display
- 4 Planned civil variant
- 5 Survivor
- 6 Specifications (XC-99)
- 7 See also
- 8 References
- 9 External links
Design and development
Design capacity of the XC-99 was 100,000 lb (45,000 kg) of cargo or 400 fully equipped troops on its double cargo decks. A cargo lift was installed for easier loading. The engines face rearward in a pusher configuration.
In July 1950, the XC-99 flew its first cargo mission, "Operation Elephant." It transported 101,266 pounds (45,933 kg) of cargo, including engines and propellers for the B-36, from San Diego to Kelly Air Force Base in San Antonio, Texas, a record it would later break when it lifted 104,000 lb (47,200 kg) from an airfield at 5,000 ft (1,500 m) elevation. In August 1953, the XC-99 would make its longest flight, 12,000 mi (19,000 km), to Rhein-Main Air Base, Germany, by way of Kindley Air Force Base, Bermuda and Lajes Field in the Azores. It carried more than 60,000 lb (27,000 kg) each way. It attracted much attention everywhere it flew.
The US Air Force determined that it had no need for such a large, long-range transport at that time, and no more were ordered. The sole XC-99 served until 1957, including much use during the Korean War. It made twice weekly trips from Kelly AFB to the aircraft depot at McClellan AFB, California, transporting supplies and parts for the B-36 bomber while returning by way of other bases or depots making pick-ups and deliveries along the way. During its operational life, the XC-99 logged over 7,400 hours total time, and transported more than 60,000,000 lbs of cargo. The aircraft made its last flight on 19 March 1957, landing at Kelly Air Force Base, where it would remain for the next 47 years. The then-United States Air Force Museum at Wright-Patterson AFB in Dayton, Ohio, requested that the aircraft be flown there for display, but the Air Force refused due to the $7,400 cost of the flight.
Retirement and display
Late 1950s and 1960s
The aircraft was put on display at Kelly Air Force Base near San Antonio, Texas, in 1957. During the 1960s, it was considered for restoration by the San Antonio Air Logistics Center at Kelly AFB, but the deterioration of the airframe due to the high magnesium content led to the abandonment of that plan. The aircraft was later moved to a grassy field near the base.
In 1993, the USAF moved it back to the Kelly AFB tarmac (29°22'27.19"N 98°35'14.37"W). It was planned to move the XC-99 by road to the National Museum of the United States Air Force at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, Ohio, restore and reassemble it, and put it on display in the USAF Museum's collection of experimental aircraft. Ultimately, transporting the massive aircraft by ground proved impractical and too expensive.
Base Realignment and Closure (BRAC) action in 1995 resulted in the partial closure and realignment of Kelly AFB, with most of the former San Antonio Air Logistics Center becoming civilianized and renamed Kelly USA, while the runway and those flight line areas supporting C-5 and F-16 flight operations of the Air Force Reserve Command's 433d Airlift Wing and the Texas Air National Guard's 149th Fighter Wing reverted to adjacent Lackland AFB and were renamed as Lackland AFB/Kelly Field Annex.
Disassembly of the aircraft began at Kelly Field in April 2004. Portions of the airframe were then airlifted from Kelly to Wright-Patterson Air Force Base near Dayton, Ohio. Transporting the XC-99 components taxed the C-5A's cargo capacity, as the largest piece moved intact was over 75 feet by 13 ft. Upon arrival at Wright-Patterson's active air field, the parts had to be further moved by truck several miles to the museum located on the Area B (former Wright Field) side of the base. By the summer of 2008, the XC-99 had been completely transferred to Dayton and was lying on the ramp outside the museum's restoration facility. ( )
Upon examination, the aircraft was found to have suffered from considerable corrosion, which was not unexpected considering it had remained outside for over 50 years. The wing spar was found to be too badly corroded to restore, and a new replacement would need to be fabricated. A full restoration is being performed by the restoration crew of the National Museum of the United States Air Force, although no timetable existed at the time.
As of May 2011, the corrosion control of the center wing boxes was nearing completion. Once this portion of the project is finished, the XC-99 will be reassembled and the restoration work started. Following restoration, the aircraft was expected to be displayed inside in one of the museum's new hangars. Like its relative the B-36, it is expected to become a showpiece of the museum. Once all aircraft have been moved from the Museum's current "Research and Development Hangar" or "Presidential Hangar" to a new display hangar planned to be added onto the main Museum buildings, the XC-99 restoration project will move into the vacated hangar, where visitors will be able to watch the restoration in progress. Upon completion, the XC-99 will remain on display in either the former R&D hangar, or Presidential Hangar.
Pending the restoration and display of the XC-99, in an effort to educate visitors about the aircraft the Air Force Museum has placed a model of the XC-99 on display in its Post-Cold War Gallery. The model, in approximately 1/72 scale, was constructed by Lt Col Howard T. Meek (USAF, Ret) a member of the museum's restoration staff. An explanation of the Museum's plans for the restoration and display of the XC-99 is located in the case with the model.
Because the XC-99 arrived in worse condition than had been expected the magnitude of the restoration was greater than the restoration staff was able to quickly accommodate. During the seven-plus years, the aircraft has remained exposed to the elements at the Wright-Patterson Air Force Base it has continued to deteriorate. In an effort to protect the aircraft, in the summer of 2011, a decision was made by the restoration staff to move the disassembled XC-99 to the 309th Aerospace Maintenance and Regeneration Group (AMARG) storage facility at Davis–Monthan Air Force Base, in Tucson, Arizona. The XC-99 will remain at Davis–Monthan Air Force Base, in an area containing other aircraft belonging to the Museum, until the restoration staff has the time and resources to perform a full restoration.
Although this article contains a number of references to information about the XC-99 at the website of the National Museum of the USAF, which were apparently valid between May and September 2011, those references are no longer valid six months later on 3 November 2012. The aircraft is no longer listed as a restoration project or tour destination at the Museum, as the references suggest, and the factsheet about the aircraft no longer exists.
From the previous section a decision appears to have been taken in 2011 to return the dismantled aircraft to the south-western USA (it passed 47 years at the Kelly Air Force Base in San Antonio, Texas, before being moved to the Museum in Ohio), this time to the Davis–Monthan Air Force Base, in Tucson, Arizona (the dry conditions of the Arizona desert would protect the aircraft from further corrosion until a full restoration can be carried out or until its deterioration can be otherwise prevented). It is not clear whether the dismantled aircraft has, in fact, been moved to Davis–Monthan; whether it remains at the National Museum of the USAF at Wright-Patterson; or whether it has been moved elsewhere.
On 12 April 2012, the XC-99 in very poor condition, was still at Wright Field outside of the restoration hangar. By 31 May 2012, the 337th Airlift Squadron moved the tail assembly and the propellers to Davis–Monthan Air Force Base, Arizona.
In 2014, the following rationale was provided to the magazine Flight Journal regarding the status of the XC-99:
Today, efforts to preserve and display the XC-99 appear to be at a hiatus. At the request of Flight Journal, Lieutenant General Jack Hudson, USAF (Ret), director of the National Museum of the United States Air Force, issued this statement:
“The staff of the NMUSAF has determined that our current restoration and exhibit resources and manpower must be redirected and focused to meet our critical near term requirements of enhancing current public galleries, such as Cold War, as well as preparing for our new fourth building and its four additional galleries. These near term requirements, along with the budget and manpower reductions, will not allow for the needed care, attention, and restoration of the XC-99 in the foreseeable future.”
In short, the XC-99, moved from Lackland AFB/Kelly Field Annex in San Antonio, Texas, to Wright-Patterson AFB in Dayton, Ohio at huge difficulty a decade ago, are being moved again to the 309th Aerospace Maintenance and Regeneration Group's storage facility at Davis-Monthan AFB, Arizona due to the federal budget squeeze and its impact on the Department of Defense, the Air Force and NMUSAF.
Planned civil variant
The Convair Model 37 was a large civil passenger design derived from the XC-99 but was never built. The Model 37 was to be of similar proportions to the XC-99; 182 ft 6 in (55.63 m) length, 230 ft (70 m) wingspan, and a high-capacity, double-deck fuselage. The projected passenger load was to be 204, and the effective range of 4,200 mi (6,800 km).
Fifteen aircraft were ordered by Pan American for transatlantic service. However, the fuel and oil consumption of the six 3,500 hp (2,600 kW) Wasp Major radials powering the XC-99 and B-36 meant that the design was not economically viable, and the hoped-for turboprop powerplants did not materialize fast enough. The low number of orders were not sufficient to initiate production, and the project was abandoned.
- XC-99 s/n 43-52436 is part of the National Museum of the United States Air Force collection at Wright-Patterson AFB in Dayton, Ohio. The aircraft was disassembled at Kelly Air Force Base and its sections transported to Ohio for anti-corrosion preservation and reassembly there.
Data from General Dynamics Aircraft and their Predecessors
- Crew: Five duty + five reserve crew
- Capacity: 400 troops
- Payload: 100,000 lb (45,000 kg)
- Length: 182 ft 6 in (55.64 m)
- Wingspan: 230 ft 0 in (70.12 m)
- Height: 57 ft 6 in (17.53 m)
- Wing area: 4,772 ft² (443.5 m²)
- Empty weight: 135,232 lb (61,469 kg)
- Loaded weight: 265,000 lb (120,455 kg)
- Max. takeoff weight: 320,000 lb (145,455 kg)
- Powerplant: 6 × Pratt & Whitney R-4360-41 Wasp Major 28-cylinder air-cooled radial engine, 3,500 hp (2,611 kW) each
- Maximum speed: 307 mph (267 knots, 494 km/h)
- Range: 8,100 mi (7,043 nmi, 13,041 km)
- Service ceiling: 30,000 ft (9,150 m)
- Related development
- Aircraft of comparable role, configuration and era
- Related lists
- Jacobsen & Wagner 1980, p. 41.
- Hill, 1st Lt Bruce R., Jr. "XC-99 begins piece-by-piece trip to Air Force Museum." 433rd Airlift Wing Public Affairs: USAF, 22 April 2004. Retrieved: 2 November 2011.
- "XC-99 Disassembled." Wikimapia. Retrieved: 2 November 2011.
- "Factsheet: Convair XC-99 Model." National Museum of the United States Air Force. Retrieved: 14 September 2011. (see subsection: Current situation)
- The fuselage was placed in pieces along the flight line in front of the restoration facility while plans were developed for the aircraft's restoration.
- "XC-99." National Museum of the United States Air Force. Retrieved: 2 November 2011.
- Lockett, Brian. "Convair XC-99 and Model 37." Goleta Air and Space Museum via air-and-space.com, 19 February 2011. Retrieved: 2 November 2011.
- Wegg 1990, p. 98.
- Dorr, Robert F. "Saving the XC-99." Air Force Times, 12 August 1998.
- Dorr, Robert F. "XC-99 is a treasure." Air Force Times, 10 June 2000.
- Jacobsen, Meyers K. Convair B-36: A Comprehensive History of America's "Big Stick". Atglen, Pennsylvania: Schiffer Military History, 1997. ISBN 0-7643-0974-9.
- Jacobsen, Meyers K. Convair B-36: A Photo Chronicle. Atglen, Pennsylvania: Schiffer Military History, 1999. ISBN 0-7643-0974-9.
- Jacobsen, Meyers K and Ray Wagner. B-36 in Action (Aircraft in Action Number 42). Carrollton, Texas: Squadron/Signal Publications Inc., 1980. ISBN 0-89747-101-6.
- Jenkins, Dennis R. Convair B-36 Peacemaker. St. Paul, Minnesota: Specialty Press Publishers and Wholesalers, 1999. ISBN 1-58007-019-1.
- Johnsen, Frederick A. Thundering Peacemaker, the B-36 Story in Words and Pictures. Tacoma, Washington: Bomber Books, 1978.
- Miller, Jay and Roger Cripliver. "B-36: The Ponderous Peacemaker." Aviation Quarterly, Vol. 4, No. 4, 1978.
- Wegg, John. General Dynamics Aircraft and their Predecessors. London: Putnam, 1990. ISBN 0-85177-833-X.
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Convair XC-99.|
- Goleta Air and Space Museum Convair XC-99 and Model 37
- 'U.S. To Europe With 50 tons", Popular Science, March 1950, early article with drawing of first layout of XC-99
- "Biggest Air Freighter Goes To War" 1951 article on first operational use of XC-99, photos and drawings
- National Museum of the USAF, XC-99 photos, along with the photo of the 1/72nd scale XC-99 model by Lt. Col. Howard Meek