Douglas C-124 Globemaster II

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C-124 Globemaster II
C-124C, operated by the USAF, flying above the San Francisco Bay, with the Golden Gate Bridge and the Marin Headlands in the background
Role Heavy-lift military transport aircraft
Manufacturer Douglas Aircraft Company
First flight 27 November 1949
Introduction 1950
Retired 1974 (USAF)
Primary user United States Air Force
Produced 1949–1955
Number built 448
Developed from Douglas C-74 Globemaster
Developed into Douglas C-132 (Unbuilt)

The Douglas C-124 Globemaster II, nicknamed "Old Shaky", is an American heavy-lift cargo aircraft built by the Douglas Aircraft Company in Long Beach, California.

The C-124 was the primary heavy-lift transport for United States Air Force (USAF) Military Air Transport Service (MATS) during the 1950s and early 1960s, until the Lockheed C-141 Starlifter entered service. It served in MATS, later Military Airlift Command (MAC), units of the Air Force Reserve and Air National Guard until retired in 1974.

Design and development[edit]

Douglas Aircraft developed the C-124 from 1947 to 1949, from a prototype they created from a World War II–design Douglas C-74 Globemaster, and based on lessons learned during the Berlin Airlift. The aircraft was powered by four large Pratt & Whitney R-4360 Wasp Major piston engines producing 3,800 hp (2,800 kW) each. The C-124's design featured two large clamshell doors and a hydraulically actuated ramp in the nose as well as a cargo elevator under the aft fuselage. The C-124 was capable of carrying 68,500 lb (31,100 kg) of cargo, and the 77 ft (23 m) cargo bay featured two overhead hoists, each capable of lifting 8,000 lb (3,600 kg). As a cargo hauler, it could carry tanks, guns, trucks and other heavy equipment, while in its passenger-carrying role it could carry 200 fully equipped troops on its double decks or 127 litter patients and their attendants. It was the only aircraft of its time capable of transporting fully assembled heavy equipment such as tanks and bulldozers.

The C-124 first flew on 27 November 1949, with the C-124A being delivered from May 1950.[1] The C-124C was next, featuring more powerful engines, and an APS-42 weather radar fitted in a "thimble"-like structure on the nose. Wingtip-mounted combustion heaters were added to heat the cabin, and enable wing and tail surface deicing. The C-124As were later equipped with these improvements.

One C-124C, 52-1069, c/n 43978, was used as a JC-124C, for testing the 15,000 shp (11,000 kW) Pratt & Whitney XT57 (PT5) turboprop, which was installed in the nose.[2][3]

Operational history[edit]

Nose and front door of a C124.
An early C-124A during the Korean War.

First deliveries of the 448 production aircraft began in May 1950 and continued until 1955. The C-124 was operational during the Korean War, and was also used to assist supply operations for Operation Deep Freeze in Antarctica. They performed heavy lift cargo operations for the U.S. military worldwide, including flights to Southeast Asia, Africa and elsewhere. From 1959 to 1961 they transported Thor missiles across the Atlantic to England. The C-124 was also used extensively during the Vietnam War transporting materiel from the U.S. to Vietnam. Until the C-5A became operational, the C-124, and its sister C-133 Cargomaster were the only aircraft available that could transport very large loads.

The United States Air Force's Strategic Air Command (SAC) was the initial operator of the C-124 Globemaster, with 50 in service from 1950 through 1962. Four squadrons operated the type, consisting of the 1st, 2nd, 3rd and 4th Strategic Support Squadrons. Their primary duty was to transport nuclear weapons between air bases and to provide airlift of SAC personnel and equipment during exercises and overseas deployments.

The Military Air Transport Service (MATS) was the primary operator until January 1966, when the organization was retitled Military Airlift Command (MAC). Within a few years following the formation of MAC, the last remaining examples of the C-124 were transferred to the Air Force Reserve (AFRES) and the Air National Guard (ANG), said transfers being complete by 1970. The first ANG unit to receive the C-124C, the 165th Tactical Airlift Group (now known as the 165th Airlift Wing) of the Georgia Air National Guard, was the last Air Force unit to retire their aircraft (AF Serial No. 52-1066 and 53-0044) in September 1974.[4]


The experimental YC-124B-DL powered by four Pratt & Whitney YT-34-P-6 turboprops.
Prototype rebuilt from a C-74 with a new fuselage and powered by four 3,500 hp R-4360-39 engines, it was later re-engined and redesignated YC-124A.
Prototype YC-124 re-engined with four 3,800 hp R-4360-35A engines.
Douglas Model 1129A, production version with four 3,500 hp R-4360-20WA engines; 204 built, most retrofitted later with nose-radar and combustion heaters in wingtip fairings.
Douglas Model 1182E was a turboprop variant of the C-124A with four Pratt & Whitney YT34-P-6 turboprops; originally proposed as a tanker, it was used for trials on the operation of turboprop aircraft. Originally designated C-127.[5]
Douglas Model 1317, same as C-124A but with four 3,800 hp R-4360-63A engines, nose radar, wingtip combustion heaters and increased fuel capacity; 243 built.


 United States
Military Air Transport Service / Military Airlift Command

Accidents and incidents[edit]

  • 23 March 1951: A C-124A 49-0244 flying from Loring Air Force Base to RAF Mildenhall reported a fire in the cargo crates, signaling Mayday. They began jettisoning the crates and announced they were ditching. The C-124 ditched at approximately, 50°45′0″N 24°03′0″W / 50.75000°N 24.05000°W / 50.75000; -24.05000 (Airy Transit) 700 mi (1,100 km) southwest of Ireland. The aircraft was intact when it touched down on the ocean. All hands exited the aircraft wearing life preservers and climbed into the inflated 5-man life rafts. The rafts were equipped with cold-weather gear, food, water, flares, and Gibson Girl hand crank emergency radios. Shortly after the men were in the life rafts, a B-29 pilot out of Ireland spotted the rafts and the flares that the men had ignited. Their location was reported and the pilot left the scene when his fuel was getting low. No other United States or Allied planes or ships made it to the ditch site for over 19 hours, until Sunday, 25 March 1951. When the ships arrived all they found were some charred crates and a partially deflated life raft. Ships and planes continued searching for the next several days but not a single body was found. There is circumstantial evidence that the airmen may have been "snatched" by the Soviet Union for their intelligence value, but their fate remains a mystery.[11][12] See 1951 Atlantic C-124 disappearance.
  • 22 November 1952: C-124A 51-0107 flying out of McChord Air Force Base in Washington state crashed into the Colony Glacier on Mount Gannett, 40 mi (60 km) east of Anchorage, Alaska, killing all 41 passengers and 11 crew. Debris from the plane and remains of some of the victims were found by the Alaska National Guard on 10 June 2012 having apparently been uncovered due to the receding of the glacier.[13] By 2014 remains of 17 victims had been recovered.[14][15]
  • 20 December 1952: C-124 50-0100 flying out of Moses Lake, Washington (Larson AFB) and taking airmen home to Texas for the holidays as part of "Operation Sleigh Ride" crashed not long after takeoff. A total of 87 airmen were killed.[16]
  • 18 June 1953: C-124 51-137 took off from Tachikawa Air Base in Japan. Shortly after takeoff, one of the engines failed, forcing the pilot to make an emergency landing. Due to a loss of airspeed, the pilot lost control and crashed into a melon patch, killing all seven crew and 122 passengers. At the time, it was the worst accident in aviation history.[17]
  • 6 April 1956: C-124 52-1078, crashed on takeoff from Travis AFB. Three of the seven crew members died in the crash. The cause of the crash was attributed to the crossing of the elevator control cables by maintenance personnel.
  • 2 April 1957: C-124A 51-5176, crashed on final approach in Cambridge Bay, Nunavut (at the time, in the Northwest Territories) while ferrying supplies for the construction of the DEW Line station. There were no fatalities and the aircraft was damaged beyond repair.[18]
  • 31 August 1957: C-124C 52-1021, operated by the 1st Strategic Squadron[N 1], crashed during an instrument approach to Biggs Air Force Base in El Paso, Texas, USA, in bad weather after a flight from Hunter AFB near Savannah, Georgia, USA. Five aircrew were killed, ten injured.[19]
  • 4 September 1957, C-124A 51-5173 en route from Larson AFB, Washington crashed while attempting a landing at Binghamton Airport, Binghamton, New York. The C-124A was delivering 20 tons of equipment for Link Aviation. The crew of nine survived.[20][21]
  • 27 March 1958: C-124C 52-0981 collided in midair with a USAF Fairchild C-119C Flying Boxcar, 49-0195, over farmland near Bridgeport, Texas, United States, killing all 15 on the Globemaster and all three on the Flying Boxcar. The two transports crossed paths over a VHF omnidirectional range (VOR) navigational radio beacon during cruise flight under instrument flight rules in low visibility. The C-124 was on a north-north-easterly heading flying at its properly assigned altitude of 7,000 ft (2,100 m); the C-119 was on a southeasterly heading, and the crew had been instructed to fly at 6,000 ft (1,800 m), but their aircraft was not flying at this altitude when the collision occurred.[22]
  • 16 October 1958: C-124C 52-1017 crashed into a 3,200 ft (980 m) mountain near Cape Hallett Bay, killing seven of the 13 on board. Navigational errors were made during this air-drop mission over Antarctica.[23]
  • 18 April 1960: C-124C 52-1062 crashed into a 450 ft (140 m) hillside after taking off in heavy fog from Stephenville-Harmon Air Force Base, Newfoundland and Labrador, Canada, killing all nine on board.[24]
  • 24 May 1961: C-124 51-0174 crashed following takeoff from McChord Air Force Base. Eighteen of the 22 passengers and crew were killed. M/Sgt Llewellyn Morris Chilson, the second-highest decorated soldier of World War II, was one of the four survivors.[25][26]
  • 2 January 1964: C-124C 52–0968 flying from Wake Island Airfield to Hickam Air Force Base, Honolulu disappeared over the ocean, 1,200 km west of Hawaii. Eight crew and one passenger were lost in the accident.[27]
  • 22 January 1965: C-124 52-1058 crashed into mountains while on approach to Athens Airport. All ten passengers and crew were killed.[28]
  • 12 February 1966: C-124 52-0980 crashed into the 11,423 ft (3,482 m) Pico Mulhacén in the Sierra Nevada mountains while on a flight from Morón Air Base to Murcia–San Javier Airport, Spain.[29] All eight aboard were killed.[30]
  • 28 July 1968: C-124A 51-5178 flying from Paramaribo-Zanderij to Recife, while on approach to land at Recife, flew into a 1,890 ft high hill, 50 miles (80 km) away from Recife. The ten occupants died.[31]
  • 26 August 1970: C-124 52-1049 crashed on approach to Cold Bay Airport in the Aleutian Islands. All seven on board were killed.[32]
  • 3 May 1972: C-124 52-1055 crashed on approach to Johan Adolf Pengel International Airport, all 11 on board were killed.[33]

Surviving aircraft[edit]

C-124C 52–1000 making its last landing at Travis Air Force Base, 10 June 1984.
C-124 at Pima
South Korea
United States

Specifications (C-124C Globemaster II)[edit]

3-view line drawing of the early Douglas C-124A Globemaster II
3-view line drawing of the early Douglas C-124A Globemaster II
3-view line drawing of the Douglas C-124C Globemaster II
3-view line drawing of the Douglas C-124C Globemaster II

Data from McDonnell Douglas aircraft since 1920 : Volume I,[44] McDonnell Douglas Aircraft since 1920[45]

General characteristics

  • Crew: 6 or 7: Aircraft Commander, Pilot, Navigator, Flight Engineer, Radio Operator, 2 Loadmasters
  • Capacity: 200 troops / 123 litter patients with 45 ambulatory patients and 15 medical staff. Maximum payload 74,000 lb (34,000 kg)
  • Length: 130 ft 5 in (39.75 m)
  • Wingspan: 174 ft 1.5 in (53.073 m)
  • Height: 48 ft 3.5 in (14.719 m)
  • Wing area: 2,506 sq ft (232.8 m2)
  • Empty weight: 101,165 lb (45,888 kg)
  • Gross weight: 185,000 lb (83,915 kg)
  • Max takeoff weight: 194,500 lb (88,224 kg)
  • Fuel capacity: 11,128 US gal (42,120 L; 9,266 imp gal) ; 2x 30 US gal (110 L; 25 imp gal) water/alcohol tanks
  • Powerplant: 4 × Pratt & Whitney R-4360-63A Wasp Major 28-cylinder air-cooled radial piston engines, 3,800 hp (2,800 kW) each with water/alcohol injection
  • Propellers: 3-bladed Curtiss Model C634S-C402, 16 ft 6 in (5.03 m) diameter fully-feathering reversible-pitch constant-speed propeller


  • Maximum speed: 304 mph (489 km/h, 264 kn) at 20,800 ft (6,300 m)
  • Cruise speed: 230 mph (370 km/h, 200 kn)
  • Range: 4,030 mi (6,490 km, 3,500 nmi) with 4,030 lb (1,830 kg) payload
  • Ferry range: 6,820 mi (10,980 km, 5,930 nmi)
  • Service ceiling: 21,800 ft (6,600 m)
  • Rate of climb: 760 ft/min (3.9 m/s)
  • Wing loading: 73.8 lb/sq ft (360 kg/m2)
  • Power/mass: 0.041 hp/lb (0.067 kW/kg)

See also[edit]

Related development

Aircraft of comparable role, configuration, and era

Related lists



  1. ^ Associated Press article does not give full squadron name, but it is likely that this refers to the 1st Strategic Support Squadron, as this unit operated the C-124 and was based at Biggs AFB.


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  2. ^ Francillon 1979, p. 470.
  3. ^ Connors 2010, p. 294.
  4. ^ "Douglas C-124 Globemaster II Fact Sheet." Archived 5 December 2014 at the Wayback Machine National Museum of the United States Air Force. Retrieved 23 July 2011.
  5. ^ Cox, George, and Kaston, Craig, 2019. American Secret Projects 2: Airlifters 1941-1961. Manchester: Crecy Publishing.
  6. ^ Berlin 2000, pp. 14–22.
  7. ^ Berlin 2000, pp. 23–30.
  8. ^ Berlin 2000, pp. 30–32.
  9. ^ Berlin 2000, pp. 32–38.
  10. ^ Berlin 2000, pp. 38–40.
  11. ^ Walker Aviation Museum | The Wonder of Aviation – Past, Present and Future. (23 May 2013). Retrieved 17 October 2013.
  12. ^ Prime, John Andrew (26 March 2011) "Plane's 1951 disappearance still a mystery" Air Force Times.
  13. ^ "Alaska glacier wreckage is 1950s military plane". Yahoo!!News (27 June 2012). Retrieved 17 October 2013.
  14. ^ Ranter, Harro. "ASN Aircraft accident Douglas C-124A-DL Globemaster II 51-0107 Anchorage, AK". Retrieved 9 July 2017.
  15. ^ "New technology aids recovery of Alaska plane wreck". Retrieved 9 July 2017.
  16. ^ "Accident description 50-0100." Aviation Safety Network, 24 March 2008. Retrieved 3 October 2011.
  17. ^ "Accident description 51-0137."Aviation Safety Network, 24 March 2008. Retrieved 3 October 2011.
  18. ^ "Accident description 51-5176." Aviation Safety Network, 24 March 2008. Retrieved 15 August, 2019.
  19. ^ Associated Press, "5 Airmen Die in Crash of Globemaster", The Dallas Morning News, Dallas, Texas, Sunday 1 September 1957, page 11.
  20. ^ Handte, Jerry. "Co-Pilot Tells How Plane Crashed." Binghamton Press, 5 September 1957, p. 1.
  21. ^ "Accident description 51-5173." Aviation Safety Network, 21 October 2006. Retrieved 3 October 2011.
  22. ^ Gero, David B. "Military Aviation Disasters: Significant Losses Since 1908". Sparkford, Yoevil, Somerset, UK: Haynes Publishing, 2010, ISBN 978-1-84425-645-7, p. 78.
  23. ^ Ranter, Harro. "ASN Aircraft accident Douglas C-124C Globemaster II 52-1017 Cape Hallett Bay". Flight Safety Foundation. Retrieved 26 August 2013.
  24. ^ "Accident description 52-1062."Aviation Safety Network, 2018. Retrieved 10 July 2018.
  25. ^ "Crash of a Douglas C-124A-DL Globemaster II at McChord AFB: 18 killed | Bureau of Aircraft Accidents Archives".
  26. ^ "Crash of a Douglas C-124A-DL Globemaster II at McChord AFB: 18 killed". Bureau of Aircraft Accidents Archives. Retrieved 16 January 2018.
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  28. ^ "Crash of a Douglas C-124 Globemaster II in Greece: 10 killed". Bureau of Aircraft Accidents Archives. Archived from the original on 16 January 2018. Retrieved 16 January 2018.
  29. ^ "Crash of a Douglas C-124 Globemaster II in Spain: 8 killed". Bureau of Aircraft Accidents Archives. Archived from the original on 16 January 2018. Retrieved 16 January 2018.
  30. ^ "ASN Aircraft accident Douglas C-124C Globemaster II 52-0980 Grenada". Aviation Safety Network, Flight Safety Foundation.
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  32. ^ "Crash of a Douglas C-124 Globemaster II in Cold Bay: 7 killed". Bureau of Aircraft Accidents Archives. Retrieved 16 January 2018.
  33. ^ "Crash of a Douglas C-124 Globemaster II in Paramaribo: 11 killed". Bureau of Aircraft Accidents Archives. Retrieved 16 January 2018.
  34. ^ Weeks, John A. "C-124C Globemaster II". John A. Weeks III. Retrieved 14 November 2016.
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  39. ^ Veronico, Nick. "Outdoor Exhibits – C-124C "Globemaster II"". Travis Air Force Base Heritage Center. Travis Heritage Center. Retrieved 14 November 2016.
  40. ^ "GLOBEMASTER II". Pima Air & Space Museum. Retrieved 14 November 2016.
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  43. ^ "C-124C "Globemaster II"". Hill Air Force Base. 23 September 2010. Retrieved 14 November 2016.
  44. ^ Francillon, René J. (1988). McDonnell Douglas aircraft since 1920 : Volume I. London: Naval Institute Press. pp. 436–440. ISBN 0870214284.
  45. ^ Francillon 1979, pp. 468–471.

External links[edit]