February 11, 2006
C-141 "Hanoi Taxi" is Retiring
Preparations Under Way for Final Flight of 'Hanoi Taxi'
By Jeff Rhodes
LM Aero Communications
On May 6, 2006, the last C-141 Starlifter will be flown to the National Museum of the United States Air Force at Wright-Patterson AFB, Ohio, and retired, closing the book on the 43-year career of the Starlifter. But until then, the Hanoi Taxi, the flagship of the 445th Airlift Wing, will be flown over the museum, on missions around the country.
The C-141 was first flown on Dec. 17, 1963, the 60th anniversary of the first flight of the Wright Brothers. Since the aircraft's operational debut on April 23, 1965, active duty, Guard and Reserve crews have played a critical role in every conflict, natural disaster and operation that Military Airlift Command or Air Mobility Command has been involved in. That includes delivering people, equipment and relief supplies to just about every point on the map.
However, one mission still stands above the rest.
With the signing of the Paris Peace Accords on Jan. 17, 1973, the U.S.involvement in Vietnam ended. On Feb. 12, crews flying three C-141 As landed at Gia Lam Airport in Hanoi, North Vietnam. Their mission:
To repatriate the first U.S. servicemen held as prisoners of war, some for close to seven years. The first aircraft to land that day was serial number 66-0177. The aircraft quickly picked up the nickname Hanoi Taxi. The aircraft was repainted in 2003 in the same paint scheme it wore 32 years ago to commemorate that event.
After undergoing two major modification programs during its career, 66-0177, now a C-141C, has become a flying museum. The 40 POWs on that first flight signed the aircraft under the wing box, and those signatures are preserved under Plexiglas. Framed photos mounted on the inside of the cargo compartment show POWs in Hanoi and aboard the aircraft. Aircrew headrest covers on the flight deck are embroidered with the black and white POW/MIA logo, and each of the crew positions has engraved plaques with the name of the crew member on that first Freedom Flight. The aircraft now has a total of 39,420 flight hours.
There are currently four C-141s still in service, but the other three aircraft will be retired early next year. Hanoi Taxi will be the last C-141, and the final flight will consist of a takeoff on the Patterson side of the field, where the 445th Airlift Wing is based, and a landing at the museum on the Wright Field side of the base. The 445th, an Air Force Reserve Commandunit, is now converting to C-5As and will eventually receive eight aircraft
Posted by Wild Thing at February 11, 2006 07:01 PM
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I worked C-141’s from 1977 – 1980 when I was stationed at Norton AFB, CA. They were a good airplane and the backbone of our airlift capability.
I took some nice video of air refueling a C-141 over the Rocky Mountains…I was in the KC-135 with the boom operator.
Posted by: BobF at February 12, 2006 09:27 AM
HI Bob, WOW that is so neat that you taped it being fueled. Not many people get to see something like that happening. Thank you so much for sharing about the C-141.
Posted by: Wild Thing at February 12, 2006 10:40 AM
I was with the FAA working in the Radar room at Andrews AFB when a C141 carrying the first group of returning POWs landed. I remember going outside onto the tarmac to watch as it taxied in. It was quite a moment watching the families break through the yellow ropes that were to "hold them back" as they exited out the rear end....
Posted by: PAUL ZITO at February 23, 2006 04:48 PM
Thanks for publishing the final chapter for the C-141 and especially 60177 (USAF always dropped the first numeral of the production year from the nose and vertical stabilizer "tail numbers").
My flight records indicate I last flew her on March 2, 1972 on a local training flight out of Norton AFB, San Bernardino, CA where she was assigned to the 63 Military Airlift Wing.
I watched her lift off and return on Feb 12, 1973 from Clark AB in the Philippines with the first load of repatriated US POWs from Hanoi. In Command was one of MAC's great Flight Examiner Airctaft Commanders, Major (at that time) Jim Marrott. Three C-141's made the complete trip that day; second was 50243 and third, 50236. There were two others fragged that day; one was an airborne spare (number unk) and 70007, the ground spare. The crews for both spares flew subsequent Homecoming Airevac missions in the following days. I was honored to fly two of them.I remember it like it was yesterday.
Posted by: RedM at February 24, 2006 02:27 PM
I was stationed at Norton from Feb 1982 until it closed and we moved to March AFB. I was a C141 pilot at both bases and flew 60177 many times on local and overseas missions. With over 3000 C141 hours I probably flew 60177 for at least 50 hours. It was a great airplane and will genuinely be missed. I plan to be at the final flight ceremony on May 6th.
Posted by: Morgan Lankford at March 8, 2006 12:10 PM
Hi Morgan, thank you so much for sharing about your service and this plane too.
Thank you for serving our country Morgan.
That will be so wonderful to go the the final flight ceremony. I am so happy you get to go.
Thank you for commenting and sharing.
Posted by: Wild Thing at March 8, 2006 01:42 PM