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C-82 Packet

C-82 Packet
Role Cargo and troop transport
National origin United States
Manufacturer Fairchild Aircraft
First flight 10 September 1944
Primary user United States Army Air Forces
Produced 1944–1948
Number built 223
Variants C-119 Flying Boxcar

The C-82 Packet was a twin-engine, twin-boom cargo aircraft designed and built by Fairchild Aircraft. It was used briefly by the United States Army Air Forces following World War II.

Design and development

Developed by Fairchild, the C-82 was designed as a heavy-lift cargo aircraft to succeed pre-war designs like the Curtiss C-46 Commando and Douglas C-47 Dakota. The aircraft was designed for a number of roles, including cargo carrier, troop transport, parachute drop, medical evacuation, and glider towing. The single prototype first flew on 10 September 1944. The aircraft were built at the Fairchild factory in Hagerstown, Maryland, with deliveries beginning in late 1945 and ending in September 1948.

Problems surfaced almost immediately as the aircraft was found to be underpowered and its airframe inadequate for the heavy lifting it was designed to perform. As a result the Air Force turned to Fairchild for a solution to the C-82's shortcomings. A redesign was quickly performed under the designation XC-82B, which would overcome all of the C-82A's initial problems.

Operational history

First flown in 1947, the XC-82B would go into production as the C-119B Flying Boxcar. In the end, only 223 C-82As would be built, a very small number for a production cargo aircraft of that era. Most were used for cargo and troop transport, although a few were used for paratroop operations or towing military gliders. During its brief operational life, several C-82 Packets were utilized during the Berlin Airlift, primarily bringing large disassembled vehicles into the city.

In 1946 the US Postal Service explored the concept of flying post offices using highly modified C-82s which would operate similar to those on trains where mail would be sorted by clerks and put in bags and then transferred to trucks on landing. [1]

In 1948, a C-82 was fitted with what was called track-gear which operated much like rear tractor like suspension on half-tracks that allowed landings on primitive dirt runways that had no asphalt or concrete surfacing. [2]

Though itself relatively unsuccessful, the C-82A is best considered as an early development stage of the C-119B Flying Boxcar. The C-82A saw limited production before being replaced by the Flying Boxcar.

Civil airline operations

After the C-82A became surplus to United States Air Force requirements, small numbers were sold to civilian operators in Brazil, Chile, Mexico and the United States and these were utilized for many years as rugged freight aircraft capable of carrying bulky items of cargo. The last example was retired in the late 1980s.


Prototype, one built.[3]
C-82A Packet
Initial production version, 220 built.[3]
1948, fitted with Firestone-designed tracked landing gear. 13 aircraft allocated for conversion from C-82A, but only one completed .[3][4]
1947, fitted with 2650hp Pratt & Whitney R-4360 radial engines as a precursor to the C-119 series. One converted from a C-82A.[3]
1946, Production aircraft built by North American Aviation. Only 3 were completed, before the remaining 997 were cancelled.[3]
Steward-Davis Jet-Packet 1600
1956, civil conversion of Fairchild C-82A with jet-pod added to upper fuselage. two 2100hp P&W R-2800-85 and 1600# Westinghouse J30-W jet-pak. Max take-off wt: 54,000#. At least 3 were converted.[3]
Steward-Davis Jet-Packet 3200
1957, a single 1600 converted with two 3,200 lbf (14 kN) thrust Westinghouse J30-W engines in a single upper fuselage jet-pak.[3]
Jet-Packet 3400
1962, at least four 1600's fitted with single 3,250 lbf (14,500 N) thrust Westinghouse J34-WE-34 or 3,400 lbf (15 kN) thrust J34-WE-36 jet-paks.[3]
Steward-Davis Jet-Packet II
Airframe weight reduction programme to increase cargo weights and increased power from Pratt & Whitney R-2800CB-16 engines. Application applied to at least three Jet-Packet 1600 or 3400, including the TWA C-82A Ontos.[3]
Steward-Davis Skytruck I
1964, C-82A aircraft with 60,000 take-off weight, improved performance and a hot-air de-icing system, one converted. The Skytruck brand-name was allegedly the inspiration for Elleston Trevor's Skytruck in the 1964 novel, The Flight of the Phoenix.
Steward-Davis Skypallet
1965 A C-82A re-design with the fuselage floor separating from the aircraft from nose to tail for large cargoes and the installation of an internal hoist. Only one aircraft was converted.[3]


  • Linea Aerea Taxpa Ltda
 United States


  • The last flyable C-82A had been owned and operated by Hawkins & Powers Aviation, an aerial firefighting company located in Greybull, Wyoming. This plane was purchased at auction by the Hagerstown Aviation Museum in Hagerstown, Maryland. The aircraft was flown to the Hagerstown Regional Airport on October 15, 2006.[5] This marks the last flight of a C-82. The aircraft will remain on display at the HRA until a dedicated space for it is made available in a future museum building to be built near the original Fairchild Manufacturing Facility. Two incomplete C-82As remain at the Greybull site. One of them (civil registration N5102B) was also recently obtained by the Hagerstown Aviation Museum, and is currently waiting to be transported to the museum where it will be used in a "Building the Boxcar" exhibit. The fate of the other incomplete C-82A (civil registration N8009E) is uncertain.

Aircraft on display

Specifications (C-82A)

Data from United States Military Aircraft since 1909 [7]

General characteristics
  • Crew: three
  • Capacity: 42 troops or 34 stretchers[8]
  • Length: 77 ft 1 in (23.50 m)
  • Wingspan: 106 ft 5½ in (32.46 m)
  • Height: 26 ft 4 in (8.03 m)
  • Wing area: 1,400 ft² (130.1 m²)
  • Empty weight: 32,500 lb (14,773 kg)
  • Max. takeoff weight: 54,000 lb (24,545 kg)
  • Powerplant: 2 × Pratt & Whitney R-2800-85 radials, 2,100 hp (1,567 kW) each


Popular culture

The C-82 is perhaps best known for its role in the 1964 novel, The Flight of the Phoenix, and Robert Aldrich's original 1965 film version. Based on the novel by Elleston Trevor, the story centers around a C-82A Packet which was operated by the fictional Arabco Oil Co. It crashed in a desert, and is rebuilt by the "passengers and crew" using one tail boom, and was then flown to safety.

See also

Related development
Aircraft of comparable role, configuration and era


  • Lloyd, Alwyn T. Fairchild C-82 Packet and C-119 Flying Boxcar. Hinckley, UK: Aerofax, 2005 ISBN 1-85780-201-2
  • Swanborough, F.G. and Peter M. Bowers. United States Military Aircraft since 1909. London: Putnam, First edition, 1963.

External links

  • March 1944; first illustration of C-82 released to public - bottom half of p. 16
  • C-82 packet
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