McDonnell Douglas C-9

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C-9 Nightingale/Skytrain II
McDonnell C-9.jpg
A C-9A Nightingale used for Aeromedical Evacuation
Role Jet transport
National origin United States
Manufacturer McDonnell Douglas
Introduction 1968
Retired September 2005 (USAF C-9A);
July 2014 (USN C-9B)
Status In limited service
Primary users United States Air Force (historical)
United States Navy (historical)
United States Marine Corps
Kuwait Air Force (historical)
Number built 48
Developed from McDonnell Douglas DC-9

The McDonnell Douglas C-9 is a military version of the McDonnell Douglas DC-9 airliner. It was produced as the C-9A Nightingale for the United States Air Force, and the C-9B Skytrain II for the U.S. Navy and Marine Corps. The final flight of the C-9A Nightingale was in September 2005,[1] and the C-9C was retired in September 2011. The U.S. Navy retired its last C-9B in July 2014.[2] Two C-9Bs remain in service with the U.S. Marine Corps.

Design and development[edit]

In 1966, the U.S. Air Force identified a need for an aeromedical transport aircraft and ordered C-9A Nightingale aircraft the following year. Deliveries began in 1968.[3] The U.S. Air Force received 21 C-9A aircraft from 1968 to 1969.[4] The C-9As were used for medical evacuation, passenger transportation, and special missions from 1968 to 2005. The C-9A were named for English social reformer Florence Nightingale (1820–1910), the founder of modern nursing.[5]

U.S. Air Force C-9A Nightingale, 1968

After selecting a modified DC-9 for passenger and cargo transport, the U.S. Navy ordered its first five C-9Bs in April 1972.[3] The Air Force in the early 1970s, under the Military Airlift Command was responsible for moving military personnel from place to place. The Navy documented to Congress that their people were being given last seating on Air Force flights.[citation needed] Congress authorized the Navy to fly its own passenger/cargo jets shortly thereafter. The C-9B aircraft have provided cargo and passenger transportation as well as forward deployed air logistics support for the Navy and Marine Corps. (The original "Skytrain" was the famous C-47 of the World War II era, developed from the civilian DC-3.) A C-9B was also chosen by NASA for reduced gravity research,[6] replacing the aging KC-135 Vomit Comet.

Many of the Navy's C-9Bs had a higher maximum gross take-off weight of 114,000 lb (52,000 kg). Auxiliary fuel tanks were installed in the lower cargo hold to augment the aircraft's range to nearly 2,600 nautical miles (4,800 km) for overseas missions, along with the addition of tail mounted infrared scramblers to counter heat seeking missile threats in hostile environments.[citation needed]

A C-9B Skytrain II offloading on the ramp at Naval Air Station Brunswick.

The C-9B squadron (VR) were located throughout the continental U.S., with detachments operated in Europe, and Asia.[7]


  • C-9A Nightingale - 21 aeromedical evacuation aircraft based on the DC-9-32CF for U.S. Air Force delivered during 1968–69.[4] One was converted for executive transport and stationed at Chievres, Belgium; a second aircraft was converted for VIP transport by the 86th Airlift Wing at Ramstein Air Base.[citation needed]
  • C-9B Skytrain II - 24 convertible passenger/transport versions for the U.S. Navy and Marine Corps delivered from 1973 to 1976. An additional 5 C-9s were converted from passenger configured DC-9s.[8]
  • VC-9C - 3 executive transport aircraft for the U.S. Air Force; these delivered in 1976.[8]
  • C-9K - 2 aircraft for the Kuwait Air Force.[8]


A US Navy C-9B Skytrain II
A US Air Force McDonnell Douglas VC-9C (DC-9-32), used often as Air Force Two or to transport first ladies.
 United States

United States Air Force

75th Airlift Squadron
2d Aeromedical Evacuation Squadron 1993–1994
86th Aeromedical Evacuation Squadron 1994–2003
20th Operations Squadron 1974–1975
20th Aeromedical Airlift Squadron 1975–1989
9th Aeromedical Evacuation Group 1974–1975
9th Aeromedical Evacuation Squadron 1975–1989
20th Aeromedical Airlift Squadron/Airlift Squadron 1989–1993
30th Airlift Squadron 1993–2004
9th Aeromedical Evacuation Squadron 1993–1994
374th Aeromedical Evacuation Squadron 1994–2004
11th Aeromedical Airlift Squadron/Airlift Squadron
57th Aeromedical Evacuation Squadron 1973–1994
375th Aeromedical Evacuation Squadron 1994–2003
  • 405th Fighter Wing - Clark Air Base, the Philippines 1972–1974
20th Operations Squadron
9th Aeromedical Evacuation Group
10th Aeromedical Evacuation Group
55th Aeromedical Airlift Squadron/Airlift Squadron
2d Aeromedical Evacuation Squadron
  • 932d Aeromedical Airlift Group/Aeromedical Airlift Wing/Airlift Wing - Scott AFB, Illinois 1969–2005
73d Aeromedical Airlift Squadron/Airlift Squadron
73d Aeromedical Evacuation Squadron 1972–1994
932d Aeromedical Evacuation Squadron 1994–2005
76th Airlift Squadron
1st Military Airlift Squadron 1977–1988
98th Military Airlift Squadron 1975–1977
99th Military Airlift Squadron/Airlift Squadron 1988–2005
58th Military Airlift Squadron/Airlift Squadron (Chievres Air Base, Belgium)
73d Airlift Squadron

United States Navy

NAS/JRB Fort Worth, Texas 2009–2012
McGuire AFB, New Jersey 2011–2012
NAS Oceana, Virginia 1999–2011
NAS/JRB Fort Worth, Texas 1998–2000

United States Marine Corps

Station Operations and Engineering Squadron 1975–1997
Marine Transport Squadron (VMR) 1 1997–present

National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA)


There have been no class-a mishaps involving a C-9B making it one of the safest aircraft in the Navy. The U.S Air Force lost a single C-9A in a fatal crash that killed the 3 man crew on a training flight in 1971 near Scott AFB.

Specifications (C-9B)[edit]

The cockpit of a C-9B Skytrain

Data from Encyclopedia of World Air Power[3]

General characteristics


Aircraft on display[edit]

  • C-9A (AF serial number 67-22584) is the first C-9A accepted for the Military Airlift Command, and was additionally the first American jet aircraft specifically designed for medical evacuation. It is on display at the Air Mobility Command Museum at Dover Air Force Base, Delaware.[9]
  • C-9A (AF serial number 71-0877) is on display at Scott AFB, Illinois
  • C-9A (AF serial number 71-0878) is on display in front of Wilford Hall USAF Medical Center at Lackland AFB, Texas
  • VC-9C (AF serial number 73-1682) is on display at the Air Mobility Command Museum at Dover AFB, Delaware
  • VC-9C (AF serial number 73-1681) is on display at the Castle Air Museum in Atwater, California and was used by Ronald Reagan and Bill Clinton[10]
  • VC-9C (AF serial number 73-1683) is on display at the Evergreen Aviation and Space Museum in McMinnville, Oregon
  • C-9B (Navy 163511), last operated by VR-46 in Marietta, GA, is on display at Naval Aviation Museum in Pensacola, Florida

See also[edit]

Related development
Aircraft of comparable role, configuration and era
Related lists


  1. ^ "Historic C-9 heads to Andrews for retirement". US Air Force, 24 September 2005.
  2. ^
  3. ^ a b c Gunston, Bill, ed. The Encyclopedia of World Air Power. New York, NY: Crescent Books, 1986. ISBN 0-517-49969-X.
  4. ^ a b Birtles, Philip. Douglas DC-9, pp. 109, 116–120, Airlife Publishing, 2002. ISBN 1-84037-318-0.
  5. ^ McEntee, Marni (August 5, 2003). "Air Force retiring Nightingale fleet". Stars and Stripes. Retrieved June 20, 2014. 
  6. ^ The History of C-9B Reduced Gravity Research Program. NASA/JSC, March 25, 2008
  7. ^ C-9 Skytrain fact file. US Navy, 15 April 2005.
  8. ^ a b c Becher, Thomas. Douglas Twinjets, DC-9, MD-90, MD-90 and Boeing 717, pp. 170–176, Crowood Press, Aviation Series, 2002. ISBN 1-86126-446-1.
  9. ^ "Archived copy" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on 2015-02-26. Retrieved 2015-08-14.  Drummer, Janene L. and Wilcoxson, Kathryn A. "Chronological History of the C-9A Nightingale." March 2001. Retrieved July 9, 2015.
  10. ^ "Tour Air Force One". Retrieved 2017-11-24. 

External links[edit]