Thursday, January 31, 2019

"Flying the Hump"-- Part 2: Of Dakotas and Gooney Birds

By the end of the war, the airlift was  moving 77,306 tons of supplies a month,  operating 622 aircraft supported by 34,000  military personnel and  47,000 civilians.  At the end of the war the army reported  509 plane crashes, 1,314 known crew dead and more than 300 missing.

Early in the effort,  the airlift was the work if C-47s, converted DC-3 twin engine airliners called Dakotas by the British and Gooney Birds by their crews.

Lacking cabin pressure, the planes should have been limited to 10,000 feet.  But the problem was that for 140 miles, the mountains were never lower than 12,00 feet.  Everyone on board had to wear uncomfortable oxygen masks.

The C-47s were eventually replaced by  C-46s with supercharged four engines that could fly higher, faster and with more cargo.  But a problem was the wings iced more readily.  Some just fell out of the sky.  And, they were also unpressurized.

The C-46s were later replaced by the Douglas C-54 which could carry even more cargo, 4,000 miles and had a 22,000 foot ceiling, but still unpressurized.  One specialized C-54 variation became FDR's personal plane, dubbed the "Sacred Cow."  "The Sacred Cow" is now at the National Museum of the Air Force in Dayton, Ohio.


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