Boeing C-97 Stratofreighter
The C-97G Stratofreighter was flown by the 166th Airlift Group, Delaware Air National Guard
at New Castle Airport from 1961-1971. A tanker variant was flown at Dover AFB by the 11th
Air Refueling Squadron 1960-1965 in support of the Strategic Air Command mission.
Delaware Air Guard Service
In March 1962, Lt. Col. Clarence E. Atkinson was named Commander of the 142nd Tactical
Fighter Squadron.Delaware ANG.. His first order of business was to preside over new growth.
On April 7, 1962 the Delaware Air National Guard enlarged to "group status" as the 166th Air
Transport Group and was reassigned from the Tactical Air Command to the Military Air
Transport Service. The Delaware Air National Guard gave up its F-86 jets for the four-engine C-
97 Boeing "Stratofreighter," a long-distance strategic airlift plane. The 166th Air Transport
Group (H) was enlarged to include the 166th Consolidated Aircraft Maintenance Squadron, the
166th Air Base Squadron, and the 166th USAF Dispensary. The 166th managed to transition to
the C-97 and reach C-1 full readiness status a full 21 months ahead of schedule. They were
presented the prestigious Spaatz trophy for this remarkable achievement.
This first significant shift in mission from fighter to transport allowed enlisted members to
participate in the flying mission as engineers, loadmaster, crew chiefs, and aeromedical
technicians. It was a “crew” aircraft that helped the unit to build a “crew” spirit of teamwork.
The mission also required additional officers including flight nurses and navigators. Col. Harold
Copey was the first chief navigator, and navigators have remained an integral part of the crew
to this day.
In June 1962 the unit flew its first trans-Atlantic mission for the Military Airlift Command to
Rhein-Main AFB Germany. The organization soon became a regular at places like Lajes,
Torrejon, Athens, Rhein Main, and other European destinations.
On October 22, 1962 a new unit, the "142nd Aeromedical Evacuation Flight," was added to the
Delaware Air National Guard. This unit initially consisted of only four personnel but had an
authorized strength of 12 flight nurses and 36 aeromedical evacuation technicians trained to fly.
Many 142nd AEF members augmented active duty crews flying live missions to the US from
Europe and Japan, as well as intra-theater missions within Europe.
In December 1963 Blue Hen planes and crews airlifted Bob Hope and his Christmas show on a
goodwill mission to the Mediterranean area. In September 1964, during Operation “Ready Go,”
the Delaware ANG acted as back-up to ANG jets flying non-stop to Europe.
In September 1965, only three years after receiving the C-97, the Delaware Air National Guard
received the McCallister Trophy as the Air National Guard Outstanding Transport Unit.
December 1965, Operation “Christmas Star” took our unit on its first cargo mission to Vietnam.
Our crews delivered gifts to the troops with regular flights continuing at the rate of four per
month of the total ANG pledge of 75 per month. In April 1966, the DE ANG airlifted cattle,
ducks, rabbits, and chickens to Lajes AFB in the Azores. In July 1966, during Operation
“Combat Leave,” the 166th supported airlifting military personnel during a commercial airline
Dr. Harold Brown, Secretary of the Air Force, announced that effective January 1, 1966, the
Military Air Transport Service would be redesignated as the Military Airlift Command. In
addition to the name change, certain Air National Guard units were also redesignated,
including Delaware. It was named the 166th Military Airlift Group. In April 1966, the unit was
awarded the Outstanding Unit Trophy by the Air Force Association based on its impressive
collection of achievements and safety record. On June 16, 1966 another unit, the 166th
Communications Flight, was added to the Delaware Air National Guard.
In 1967, Delaware ANG crews airlifted medical supplies to Vietnamese hospitals for a local
Delaware Group called Aid to International Medicine. We flew our first cargo mission to the
Australian continent, and in May the Blue Hens saved a NASA missile launch by rushing
technicians to Ascension Island to repair a radar monitoring station.
January 1969, Colonel Atkinson became the Adjutant General for Delaware - the first Air
National Guard member to do so. Lt Colonel Charles R. Skinner became the new base
detachment commander and Lt Colonel Robert L. Fuller became the Group Commander. On
November 8, 1969 the 166th Civil Engineer Flight organized as a separate unit in the Delaware
Air National Guard.
During the period from 1964-1974 the Delaware Air National Guard flew airlift missions to
Vietnam with increasing tempo. The organization made an impact on the war effort, by
voluntarily contributing a significant portion of the mission (an estimated 65 percent) it would
otherwise have been expected of, had it been fully activated.
C-97 Crew Overcomes Overwater Emergency (January 1971 DANG TRUTH)
Lt Col John Marder and the crew of a December 1970 flight to Lajes AFB can thank a faulty relay switch
for crippling their C-97. About halfway through a flight from Dover Flight Engineer Alfred DiSabatino
found the engines were running too hot. He threw the switches to open the cowl flaps. When they had opened
enough he disengaged the switches, but the flaps on engine number four continued to open. DiSabatino tried
everything, but the cowl flaps were stuck past the full open stop.
The turbulent air created by the open cowl flaps hit the horizontal stabilizer on the tail and the airplane began
to pitch up and down. The controls at the hands of aircraft commander Lt Col John Marder started to vibrate
violently and the airplane was growing uncontrollable.
The crew thought they were going into the drink. TSgt James Boyce ran for survival suits but the crew knew
survival in the frigid North Atlantic would be measured in minutes.
The plane was losing altitude as Marder and co-pilot Tenney Wheatley fought vainly to regain altitude. They
tried lowering the flaps, and varying the power. The biggest help, however, was feathering the propeller on
engine number four. The airplane leveled out at 5000 feet (after losing 13,000 in altitude). They turned north
towards St. Johns, Newfoundland and descended towards the runway two-and-a-half harrowing hours
later. As they flared for landing the stabilizer once again encountered turbulent air as the nose rose. Marder
had to hold the tail up and land with only the nosewheel touching. Both pilots had to stand on the rudder
pedals to control the airplane. Marder cut the power and plane settled onto its main gear. The crippled C-97
stopped and the emergency was over.
Role Military transport aircraft
First flight 9 November 1944
Primary users United States Air Force
Israeli Air Force
Number built 60 (888 all variants)
Unit cost $1,205,000
Developed from B-29 Superfortress
Variants KC-97 Stratotanker
Boeing 377 Stratocruiser
Aero Spacelines Pregnant Guppy
Aero Spacelines Super Guppy
Aero Spacelines Mini Guppy
The Boeing C-97 Stratofreighter was a long range heavy military cargo aircraft based on the B-
29 bomber. Design work began in 1942, with the prototype's first flight in 1944, and the
production aircraft entering service in 1947. Between 1947 and 1958, 888 C-97s in several
variants were built - 816 of them KC-97 tankers. C-97s served in the Berlin Airlift, the Korean
War, and the Vietnam War. Some aircraft served as flying command posts for the Strategic Air
Command, while others were modified for use in Aerospace Rescue and Recovery Squadrons
The Boeing C-97 Stratofreighter was developed towards the end of World War II by fitting an
enlarged upper fuselage onto a lower fuselage and wings which were essentially the same as the
B-50 Superfortress with the tail, wing, and engine layout being nearly identical. It was built
before the death of Boeing president, Philip G. Johnson. It can be easily distinguished from the
377 Stratocruiser airliner by the radar "beak" radome beneath the nose, and by the flying boom
and jets on later tanker models.
The prototype XC-97 was powered by the 2,200 hp (1,640 kW) Wright R-3350 engine. It had
clamshell doors under the tail that a retractable ramp could be used to drive in equipment. It
also was fitted with a built-in ramp and a hoist to help in the loading and unloading of supplies
and personnel through the large clamshell-type doors in the belly. But unlike the later C-130
Hercules, it was not designed as a combat transport which could deliver directly to primitive
forward bases using relatively short takeoffs and landings. The rear ramp could not be used in
flight for air drops.
On January 9, 1945 the first prototype, piloted by Major Curtin L. Reinhardt, flew from Seattle
to Washington, DC in 6 hours 4 minutes, an average speed of 383 mph (616 km/h) with 20,000
pounds (lb) of cargo, which was for its time rather impressive for such a large aircraft.
Production models featured the 3500 hp (2,610 kW) Pratt & Whitney Wasp Major engine, the
same engine as the B-50.
The C-97 had a useful payload of 35,000 lb (16 t) and could carry two normal trucks, towed
artillery or light tracked vehicles such as the M56 Scorpion. The C-97 was also the first mass
produced air transport to feature cabin pressurization, which made long range missions
somewhat more comfortable for the crew and passengers.
C-97s evacuated casualties during the Korean War. C-97s also participated in the airlift of relief
materials to Uli airstrip (Biafra) during the Nigerian Civil War. Flying under the cover of
darkness and at tree-level to evade radar, at least two C-97s were lost. The USAF Strategic Air
Command operated C-97 Stratofreighters from 1949 through 1978. Early in its service life, it
served as an airborne alternative SAC command post. While only 60 C-97 transports were built,
816 were built as the KC-97 Stratotanker variant for inflight refueling. The civilian derivative of
the C-97 was the Boeing 377 Stratocruiser, a very luxurious transoceanic air liner which
featured a lower deck lounge and could be fitted with sleeper cabins.
One YC-97A (45-9595) was used in the Berlin Airlift during April 1949 operating for the 1st
Strategic Support Squadron. It suffered a landing gear accident at Rhein Main Air Base and by
the time it was repaired, the Soviet Blockade was lifted.
Two C-97s are still airworthy at the present day, one (s/n 52-2718, named "Angel of
Deliverance") operated as a privately-owned warbird, the other operated as a fire bomber in the
The C-97's direct replacement, the jet-powered 707-based KC-135 retained the flying boom of the
KC-97 but had the speed to match the B-52s and later supersonic B-58s of Strategic Air
Command. They remain the dominant tanker in the Air Force fleet in the twenty-first century.
Its civilian counterpart, the 707 gave Boeing a dominance in jet airliners it never had in the prop
age. But jets had not put an end to propeller transports, as Lockheed's turboprop powered C-
130 of similar size and top speed became the standard combat transport in the west as C-97s
were retired. The Hercules continues to serve as an air-tanker for Navy and Marine jets, and Air
The Israelis turned to Stratocruisers and KC-97s when they could not buy the highly regarded
C-130. The Israelis adapted 377 Stratocruiser airliners into transports, including many using C-
97 tail sections including the loading ramp. Others were adapted with swiveling tails and
refueling pods. One Israeli C-97 was downed by an Egyptian SA-2 Guideline missile in the early
1970s, while flying as an electronic counter-measures platform some twelve miles from the Suez
prototype, 3 built.
cargo transport, 6 built.
troop carrier, 3 built.
fitted with 80 airliner-style seats, one in 1954 redesignated VC-97D, retired to MASDC 15
transport, 50 built.
Three C-97As were converted into aerial refueling tankers with rear loading door removed and a
flight refueling boom added. After the design was proven, they were converted back into the
medical evacuation transports, 14 C-97As converted during the Korean War (also designated
staff transport conversions, 1 YC-97A, 2 C-97As converted, plus the YC-97B. Later designated C-
KC-97Es converted to transports.
aerial refueling tankers with rear loading doors permanently closed, 60 built.
KC-97Fs converted to transports.
3800hp R-4360-59B engines and minor changes, 159 built.
135 KC-97Gs converted to transports.
ELINT conversion of three KC-97Gs. 53-106 was operated by the CIA for covert ELINT
operations in the West Berlin Air Corridor.
dual-role aerial refueling tankers/cargo transportation aircraft. KC-97G models carried
underwing fuel tanks. 592 built.
Five KC-97Gs were used as ground instruction airframes.
One aircraft was modified to test the underwing General Electric J47-GE-23 jet engines, and was
later designated KC-97L.
KC-97Gs converted for search and rescue operations, 22 converted.
One KC-97F was experimentally converted into a probe-and-drogue refueling aircraft.
KC-97G conversion with four 4250 kW Pratt & Whitney YT34-P-5 turboprops, dropped in
favour of the Boeing KC-135 Stratotanker, two converted
KC-97Gs converted to troop transports.
81 KC-97Gs modified with two J47 turbojet engines on underwing pylons.
Data from Boeing C-97 Stratofreighter
Crew: 4 (Pilot, Copilot, Navigator, Flight engineer)
96 troops or
69 stretchers or
Length: 110 ft 4 in (33.7 m)
Wingspan: 141 ft 3 in (43.1 m)
Height: 38 ft 3 in (11.7 m)
Wing area: 1,734 ft² (161.1 m²)
Empty weight: 82,500 lb (37,410 kg)
Loaded weight: 120,000 lb (54,420 kg)
Useful load: 37,500 lb (17,010 kg)
Max takeoff weight: 175,000 lb (79,370 kg)
Powerplant: 4× Pratt & Whitney R-4360B Wasp Major radial engines, 3,500 hp (2,610 kW) 28-
Aircraft Model number: 367
Maximum speed: 375 mph (603 km/h)
Cruise speed: 260 knots (300 mph, 482 km/h)
Range: 4,949 nm (4,300 mi, 6,920 km)
Ferry range: 5,000 nm (5,760 mi, 9,270 km)
Service ceiling: 35,000 ft (10,670 m)
Wing loading: 69.2 lb/ft² (337.8 kg/m²)
Power/mass: 0.117 hp/lb (192 W/kg)
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^ Rubinstein and Goldman 1979, p. 89.
^ Ravenstein, Charles A., ed. Air Force Combat Wings: Lineage and Honors Histories, 1947-
1977. Washington, D.C.: United States Air Force Historical Research Center, Office of Air Force
History, 1984. ISBN 0-912799-12-9.
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^ "C-97G AF Serial No. 52-2626." pimaair.org. Retrieved: 13 November 2010.
^ "C-97G AF Serial No. 52-2718 'Angel of Deliverance'." spiritoffreedom.org. Retrieved: 13
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Retrieved: 13 November 2010.
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^ "KC-97G showing civil registry N17KC." mnangmuseum.org. Retrieved: 13 November 2010.
^ "KC-97 Fuel Tanker - History & Rental Info." Jackson County Airport. Retrieved: 13 November
^ "Airplane Restaurant." coloradorestaurantguides.com. Retrieved: 13 November 2010.
^ "Boeing - History - C-97 Stratofreighter." Boeing. Retrieved: 27 April 2009.
^ Hansen, Dave. "Boeing C-97 Stratofreighter." Warbird Alley, 27 April 2009.
^ "C-97 Stratofreighter Specifications." GlobalSecurity.org, 27 April 2009.
Rubinstein, Murray and Richard Goldman. The Israeli Air Force Story London: Arms &
Armour Press, 1979. ISBN 0-85368-462-6.
|Delaware Military History