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|Hanoi Taxi flying over the National Museum of the United States Air Force in December 2005|
|Type||Lockheed C-141 Starlifter|
|Owners and operators||United States Air Force|
|Preserved at||National Museum of the United States Air Force|
Hanoi Taxi is a Lockheed C-141 Starlifter strategic airlift aircraft (serial number 66-0177) that was in service with the United States Air Force and became famous for bringing back the first returned prisoners of war in Operation Homecoming. This aircraft, which was delivered to the Air Force in 1967, was the last C-141 to be withdrawn from service after a career of almost 40 years, as the last of the fleet was retired in 2006 as sufficient C-17 Globemaster III aircraft became available in the regular Air Force to allow C-141s still serving with Air Force Reserve units to be replaced by the C-5 Galaxy aircraft being seconded from the regular Air Force. The Hanoi Taxi is currently housed at the National Museum of the United States Air Force, near Dayton, Ohio.
Vietnam War Service
For much of the late 1960s and early 1970s, 66-0177 flew out of Norton Air Force Base, San Bernardino, California with the 63rd Military Airlift Wing (MAW). The Hanoi Taxi flew Bob Hope to USO shows in South Vietnam. The Hanoi Taxi was used in 1973, in the final days of the Vietnam War, to repatriate American POWs from North Vietnam. Arizona Senator John McCain was one of the POWs who flew home on the Hanoi Taxi. The Hanoi Taxi's name comes from the writing on the flight engineer's panel by the POWs aboard the plane for the freedom flight.
Originally built as a standard C-141A, the aircraft was converted to a stretched C-141B in October 1981, along with most of the C-141 fleet. Subsequent avionics and structural upgrades saw the aircraft converted to the C-141C standard in 1999. Later in its career it was transferred to the 445th Airlift Wing at Wright Patterson Air Force Base (WPAFB) Area A in Ohio. In 2002 the aircraft's history was discovered by its crew chief while it was undergoing maintenance, and shortly thereafter it was repainted it in the white-over-grey livery it wore in 1973 during its evacuation mission to Hanoi. Signatures of the freed prisoners were preserved on the panel over the years and became the centerpiece of what was essentially a "flying museum". Plaques, documents and photographs of the homecoming are part of the on-board exhibit researched and created by the 445th Airlift Wing. Etchings of the names of those who are missing in action were taken from engravings on the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington and are mounted on the plane. Framed photographs, plaques, and other memorabilia adorn the interior. Following its restoration the aircraft was first exhibited to the public at the 2003 Dayton Air Show. It appeared at numerous other venues until its retirement in May 2006.
In 2005, Hanoi Taxi was one of the aircraft marshalled by the Air Force to provide evacuation for those seeking refuge from Hurricane Katrina. This aircraft and others evacuated thousands of people, including the medical evacuation (MEDEVAC) of hundreds of ill and injured.
With the scheduled 2006 retirement of the last 8 C-141s, the Hanoi Taxi embarked on a series of flights, giving veterans, some of whom flew out of captivity in this aircraft, the opportunity to experience one more flight before its retirement. At 9:30 AM on Saturday, 6 May 2006, the Hanoi Taxi touched down for the last time and was received in a formal retirement ceremony at the National Museum of the United States Air Force, located at Wright Patterson Air Force Base (WPAFB) Area B in Riverside, Ohio near Dayton, Ohio. Area B is the Wright Field portion of the base which its runways are no longer in operational service except for inbound flights to the museum. Hanoi Taxi is now part of the permanent static display collection of the Museum.
- 445aw.afrc.af.mil Archived 2011-07-16 at the Wayback Machine., November 2002
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