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445th AirLIFT Wing (AMC) 
photo by John Rossino usaf

The "Hanoi Taxi," flies over its soon-to-be new home at the National Museum of the United States Air Force adjacent to it’s last base, Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, Ohio, on Tuesday, Dec. 13, 2005. C-141C –0177 gained fame when it was used to return American prisoners of war back home at the end of the Vietnam War.

Hanoi Taxi shuttles C-141 into history books
by Eugene Vandeventer - Air Force Reserve Command History Office

Arguably the most famous C-141 Starlifter in the Air Force inventory touched down for the last time at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, Ohio on May 6. The “Hanoi Taxi,” tail number 66-0177 flew its final scheduled mission in preparation for permanent display at the National Museum of the United States Air Force.

The “Hanoi Taxi” is best remembered for its role in Operation HOMECOMING carrying the first 40 American prisoners of war from Hanoi’s Gia Lam Airport to Clark Air Base, The Philippines.

On May 5, the Hanoi Taxi repeated the moment in history by flying approximately 100 former Vietnam POWs in what was the last mission for the cargo workhorse. There was much pride and melancholy in the final flight as airmen reminisced about the distinguished history of the C-141, this particular tail number, and the thought that it will never take flight again. 

Since its maiden flight on Dec. 17, 1963, some 285 Air Force Starlifters - under A, B, and C model configurations – have carried cargo, passengers, and patients around the globe in support of national defense. The Starlifter will long be remembered for bringing airlift capabilities into the jet age; replacing the C-124 piston-driven propeller aircraft. The Starlifter’s introduction into the Air Force inventory was revolutionary. Logistics planners could now depend on the successful delivery of cargo and forces within hours; a notable achievement that was unthinkable in the years before its development. Speed, versatility, and a high degree of reliability gave the Starlifter its notoriety -- her crews its lasting spirit. 

From the Vietnam of 1960 to present-day Iraq, Air Force and Air Force Reserve C-141 crews have played a significant force projection role. By 1965 this multi-capable transport had become the primary platform for long-range aeromedical airlift. Between 1965 and 1973, Military Airlift Command, in conjunction with the Air Force Reserve, performed more than 400,000 patient movements, including 168,000 allied battle casualties, with a perfect flying record. 

The Starlifter’s versatility meant that, within hours, medical professionals could extract and attend to wounded service members while en route from battle zones to critical care facilities outside the theater. This capability helped to drastically reduce the number of fatalities due to patients not receiving immediate medical care. 

  C-141 aeromedical contributions continued throughout the decades with the Starlifter performing extensively during Operations DESERT SHIELD and DESERT STORM, and in her twilight years for Operations ENDURING FREEDOM and IRAQI FREEDOM. The Starlifter’s last combat mission - again performing in an aeromedical role - occurred on Sept. 30, 2005. 

As the C-141 capabilities expanded within the aeromedical arena, the aircraft remained a workhorse capable of delivering troops and supplies across the globe at 500 miles per hour. At the end of 1967, Operation EAGLE THRUST gave testimony to the aircraft’s means to produce and deliver. MAC provided non-stop transportation for 10,356 soldiers and 5,118 tons of equipment from the 101st Airborne Division from Fort Campbell, Ken., to Bien Hoa Air Base, South Vietnam. Efficiency improved further as engine-running offload techniques helped reduce ramp space saturation and time on-the-ground.

The Starlifter aided immeasurably in the delivery of war-fighting equipment and forces in the airlift role. During the Persian Gulf War, it flew more than 15,000 missions and carried more than 500,000 people and 500,000 tons of cargo during both deployment and re-deployment phases. Today, the C-17 has assumed the Starlifter’s versatile airlift role and carries on its mastery of air power and force projection. 

In 1968, the Air Force Reserve Associate program was created. The 445th Military Airlift Wing, then located at Norton AFB, Calif, became the first associate unit to receive C-141s. Since the C-141 inauguration, the associate program has expanded into other airframes including fighter, airlift, training, and space resources. The 445th Airlift Wing, now at Wright-Patterson, became the second Reserve unit-equipped wing with C-141s in October 1994 and was honored with the distinction of performing the aircraft’s last flight. 

The C-141 gave the Air Force just what it needed; a jet propelled, versatile and highly reliable cargo platform that could ferry equipment and people from continent to continent displaying its major characteristics of safety and speed. As of April 30, the Starlifter had accumulated more than 10.5 million flying hours and surpassed 1 million full landing stops. Also of note is the monumental humanitarian role that C-141 aircrews performed throughout the last four decades delivering relief supplies to countless world citizens during crisis such as famines and tsunami relief. 

Major Gen. Martin M. Mazick, 22nd Air Force commander at Dobbins Air Reserve Base, Ga,, remembers well his early career flying days in the C-141 Associate program. “I was able to spend 19 years flying the C-141A and B, and this is like losing a great friend that took me all over the world. For a long time the gray and white Starlifter was a United States ambassador to the world. It defined speed, range and flexibility for our nation. It presented an opportunity for a sense of accomplishment on every mission whether you were delivering cargo, passengers, relief aid or what I considered most rewarding, aeromedical evacuation of patients. The C-141 served the Air Force and our nation well and will be missed by all who had the opportunity to fly the Starlifter.”

photo by Tech. Sgt. Larry A. Simmons                                                                                  USAF 

Families swarm to greet former prisoners of war moments after they landed in the C-141 "Hanoi Taxi" on Friday, May 5, 2006, at the National Museum of the United States Air Force in Dayton, Ohio.




DAYTON, Ohio – The first aircraft to return Vietnam prisoners of war to the United States arrived at the National Museum of the United States Air Force at 9:30 a.m. on May 6.

The C-141 “Hanoi Taxi” was the first aircraft to arrive in Hanoi in February 1973 to pick up the POWs returning to the United States. The “Hanoi Taxi” was one of several aircraft involved in repatriating more than 500 American POWs held by the North Vietnamese.

The aircraft made several passes before its final landing on the runway behind the museum. Crewmembers from the 445th Airlift Wing commanded the aircraft from Wright-Patterson Air Force Base to the museum.

A ceremony was held following the aircraft’s arrival at the museum. Speakers included Gen. Duncan J. McNabb, commander of Air Mobility Command, Ross Reynolds, vice president of air mobility programs at Lockheed Martin, Gen. (Ret.) William Begert, vice president of business development and international programs in the Military Engines unit at Pratt & Whitney, Lt. Gen. John A. Bradley, commander of Air Force Reserve Command, and Maj. Gen. (Ret.) Charles D. Metcalf, museum director. Former Vietnam POWs and past crew members were in attendance to witness the event.

During the ceremony, Lockheed Martin presented the museum with a painting of the “Hanoi Taxi” flying over the museum. The painting is titled “The Airlift Legend: Celebrating the 43-Year Career of the C-141 StarLifter.”

The museum anticipates the “Hanoi Taxi” to be on public display in the Air Park this summer.

The National Museum of the United States Air Force is located on Springfield Pike, six miles northeast of downtown Dayton. It is open 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. seven days a week (closed Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year’s Day). Admission and parking are free.

photo by Senior Airman Kenny Kimbrell                                 USAF

Senior Airman Christopher Braun, a reservist with the 445th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, Ohio, controls the stick of the "Hanoi Taxi," as it is pushed by a maintenance tug.

USAF Retires Last Lockheed Martin C-141 StarLifter
World's First Jet-Powered Airlifter Completes 43-Year Career
By Senior Airman Kenny Kimbrell

WRIGHT-PATTERSON AFB, Ohio, The U.S. Air Force retired the last Lockheed C-141 StarLifter airlifter to the National Museum of the United States Air Force in ceremonies here this morning, closing out the transport's 43-year career.

The C-141 was the world's first turbofan-powered transport and it served as a major component of the U.S. strategic airlift force since it entered operational service in 1965. The aircraft recorded more than 10.6 million operational hours in over four decades of service.

"The C-141 has a noble record of achievement in its support of the U.S. military. Participating in every military operation from Vietnam to Iraqi Freedom, StarLifter crews have also performed humanitarian relief flights to nearly 70 countries on six continents," said Ross Reynolds, Lockheed Martin's vice president of Air Mobility. "Most recently, the StarLifter served those affected by hurricanes Katrina and Rita. The aircraft has served NASA, conducted Antarctic resupply flights for nearly three decades and has been a key asset for flight research serving science for two decades."

The last C-141 aircraft in Air Force inventory (Air Force serial number 66-0177), a C-141C known as the Hanoi Taxi, was flown by a 445th Airlift Wing crew from the unit's base on the Patterson side of this 8,300 acre installation to the Wright Field side of the base where the National Museum of the United States Air Force (formerly known as the Air Force Museum) is located. The final flight lasted about an hour and included several passes over the museum.

On February 12, 1973, this particular aircraft, then a C-141A, was flown to Gia Lam Airport, near Hanoi, North Vietnam in the first mission of Operation Homecoming, the repatriation of former American prisoners of war. There were 40 former POWs on that first flight, many of whom were in Dayton for a reunion in conjunction with the C-141's retirement. On May 5, the POWs flew once again on the Hanoi Taxi in a re-creation of that historic flight.

"This last aircraft to be retired has a particularly poignant past since this is the aircraft that carried out the first Operation Homecoming," said Reynolds. "With the retirement of this aircraft, we remember and commemorate that important flight with great respect for all the missions of the aircraft, the crews who have flown it and the treasured passengers and cargo it has transported. Our company and employees salute all who have flown the C-141 serving our country and the Air Force, Air National Guard, Air Force Reserve Command, Air Education and Training Command and Air Force Materiel Command with such distinction."

The aircraft was first flown in 1967 and went through two major modifications. It was first brought up to C-141B standards in the late 1970s. In the early 1990s, the aircraft was equipped with digital avionics and became a C-141C. The aircraft retires with approximately 39,470 flight hours and 10,900 landings over its career.

After several weeks of preparation and preservation, the Hanoi Taxi will go on public display this summer in the museum's outdoor airpark. Counting the Hanoi Taxi, a total of 13 StarLifters are preserved as static displays at bases where the aircraft were formerly stationed or in museums around the country.

"The StarLifter was the first production aircraft to be completely designed by engineers at the company's division in Marietta, Ga.," added Reynolds. "At the rollout ceremony in August 1963, President John Kennedy pushed a button at the White House that sent signals to open the hangar doors in Marietta. Today, this division of Lockheed Martin continues the company's air mobility legacy with ongoing production of the new C-130J air mobility aircraft and modernization of the C-5 Galaxy, the largest transport aircraft supporting the needs of the U.S. military."

The 445th Airlift Wing, an Air Force Reserve Command unit, is now converting from the C-141 to the C-5A Galaxy strategic transport. The 445th AW will eventually receive 11 aircraft. Eleven major military construction projects, valued at $62.8 million, are under way or planned through FY'07 to accommodate the C-5s at Wright-Patterson.


photo by Staff Sgt. Tony R. Tolley                                           USAF

One of the the last C-141 StarLifter's in the Air Force, tail number 67-0166 from the 445th Airlift Wing circles over Scott Air Force Base, Ill., on Friday, April 7, 2006. making its final flight. It will take its place among other Air Mobility Command aircraft at the heritage airpark being built at Scott AFB, AMC HQ.

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