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Douglas C-133 Cargomaster

C-133 Cargomaster
Douglas C-133B Cargomaster, AF Ser. No. 59-0529 (1501st Air Transport Wing), over San Francisco Bay
Role Military transport aircraft
National origin United States
Manufacturer Douglas Aircraft Company
First flight 23 April 1956
Retired 1971
Primary users United States Air Force
Produced 1956-1961
Number built 50

The Douglas C-133 Cargomaster was a large cargo aircraft built between 1956 and 1961 by the Douglas Aircraft Company for use with the United States Air Force. The C-133 was the USAF's only production turboprop-powered strategic airlifter, entering service shortly after the Lockheed C-130 Hercules, which was known as a tactical airlifter. It provided airlift services in a wide range of applications, being replaced by the C-5 Galaxy in the early 1970s.


  • Design and development 1
  • Operational history 2
  • Operators 3
  • Accidents and incidents 4
  • Aircraft on display 5
  • Specifications (C-133B) 6
  • See also 7
  • References 8
  • External links 9

Design and development

The C-133 was designed to meet the requirements for the USAF's Logistic Carrier Support System SS402L for a new strategic transport.[1] The aircraft differed considerably from the C-74 Globemaster and C-124 Globemaster IIs that had preceded it. A high-mounted wing, external blister fairings on each side for the landing gear, and rear-loading and side-loading doors ensured that access to, and the volume of, the large cargo compartment were not compromised by these structures. The cargo compartment (90 ft/27 m in length and 12 ft/3.7 m high) was pressurized, heated, and ventilated.[2]

C-133A of 436 MAW Military Airlift Command at RAF Lakenheath England in 1969

The Cargomasters went directly into production as C-133A; no prototypes were built. The first Cargomaster flew on 23 April 1956.[3] The first C-133As were delivered to the Military Air Transport Service (MATS) in August 1957 and began flying MATS air routes throughout the world. Two C-133s established transatlantic speed records for transport aircraft on their first flights to Europe. The fleet of 50 aircraft proved itself invaluable during the Vietnam War. The Cargomaster soldiered on until the Lockheed C-5 Galaxy entered service in the early 1970s. The C-133 was then retired and most airplanes were cut up as soon as they were delivered to Davis-Monthan Air Force Base, Tucson, Arizona, on their final flights in 1971.

Fifty aircraft (35 C-133A and 15 C-133B) were constructed and put into service with the USAF.[4] A single C-133A and a C-133B were built and kept at Douglas Long Beach as "test articles". They had no construction numbers or USAF tail numbers.

The C-133 had large tail doors and side doors and a large, open cargo area. With the C-133B, the rear cargo doors were modified to open to the side (petal doors), making an opening large enough to transport ballistic missiles such as the Atlas,[4] Titan and Minuteman more inexpensively, safely and quickly than road transport. Several hundred Minuteman and other ICBMs were airlifted to and from their operational bases by C-133s. The C-133 also transported Atlas, Saturn and Titan rockets to Cape Canaveral for use as launch boosters in the Gemini, Mercury and Apollo space programs. After the Apollo capsules splashed down, they were airlifted in C-133s from Naval Station Norfolk, Virginia or Hickam AFB, Hawaii to Ellington AFB, Texas, or to California.

Operational history

Preserved C-133A
C-133B Cargomaster N77152 of the Foundation for Airborne Relief at Tucson Airport Arizona in 1973 still wearing MAC markings

The C-133 was for many years the only USAF aircraft capable of hauling very large or very heavy cargo. Despite the Douglas C-124 Globemaster II's capabilities, there was much cargo that it could not carry because of its configuration with a cargo deck 13 ft (4 m) off the ground and its lower, though substantial, engine power. The C-133 continued in service after the formation of the USAFs Military Airlift Command on 1 January 1966.

By 1971, shortly before the introduction of the Lockheed C-5 Galaxy, the Cargomaster was obsolete as well as being worn out, and all were withdrawn from service in 1971. The C-133 was originally a 10,000-hour airframe that had been life-extended to 19,000 hours. Severe vibration had caused critical stress corrosion of the airframes to the point that the aircraft were beyond economical operation any longer. The Air Force managed to keep as many of the C-133 fleet in service as possible until the C-5 finally entered squadron service.

C-133s set a number of unofficial records, including records for military transport aircraft on trans-Atlantic and trans-Pacific routes. Among the longest were non-stop flights from Tachikawa Airfield, Japan, to Travis Air Force Base, California (17:20 hours on 22 May 1959, 5,150 mi/8,288 km, 297.2 mph/478.3 km/h) and Hickam Air Force Base, Hawaii to Dover Air Force Base, Delaware in about 16 hours (4,850 mi/7,805 km 303.1 mph/487.8 km/h). The only FAI officially-sanctioned record was in December 1958, when C-133A 62008 lifted a payload of 117,900 lb (53,480 kg) to an altitude of 10,000 ft (3,048 m) at Dover Air Force Base, Delaware.

After retirement by the USAF, Cargomasters were operated by the Cargomaster Corporation in Alaska and by the Foundation for Airborne Relief based in California.


 United States

United States Air Force

Military Air Transport Service/Military Airlift Command
1st Air Transport Squadron/Military Airlift Squadron, 1960-71
39th Air Transport Squadron/Military Airlift Squadron, 1957-71
84th Air Transport Squadron/Military Airlift Squadron, 1957-71
Cargomaster Corporation, Ted Stevens International Airport (ANC), Anchorage, Alaska
Foundation for Airborne Relief (1973)


Accidents and incidents

Of 50 aircraft built, nine were lost in crashes and one was destroyed in a ground fire. The primary causes of most of the in-flight losses were most likely related to the C-133's stall characteristics.[5]

  • AF Serial No. 54-0140, 1607 ATW — Destroyed 10 January 1965, crashed into water after takeoff from Wake Island.
  • AF Serial No. 54-0146, 1607 ATW — Destroyed 13 April 1958, crashed 26 mi (42 km) south of Dover AFB, Delaware
  • AF Serial No. 56-2002, 1607 ATW — Destroyed 22 September 1963, crashed into Atlantic Ocean near SHAD Intersection, southeast of Dover AFB, Delaware; aircraft apparently stalled near top of climb to cruising altitude
  • AF Serial No. 56-2005, 1607 ATW — Destroyed 13 July 1963 during refueling ground fire, Dover AFB, Delaware.
  • AF Serial No. 56-2014, 1607 ATW — Destroyed 7 November 1964 in crash on takeoff at CFB Goose Bay, Labrador; most probable cause was a power stall on takeoff due to icing or possibly aerodynamic instability of the aircraft
  • AF Serial No. 57-1611, 1607 ATW — Destroyed 27 May 1962, crashed into water near SHAD Intersection, east of Dover AFB, Delaware
  • AF Serial No. 57-1614, 1501 ATW — Destroyed 11 June 1961, crashed into water off Japan
  • AF Serial No. 59-0523, 1501 ATW — Destroyed 10 April 1963, crashed while in traffic pattern, Travis AFB, California[7]
  • AF Serial No. 59-0530, 60 MAW — Destroyed 6 February 1970, disintegrated in flight over southwestern Nebraska, due to catastrophic propagation of old 11 in (28 cm) skin crack hidden under paint to a total length of 17 ft (5.2 m); large sections of skin peeled off into the engines and the aircraft came apart at 23,000 ft (7,010 m).
  • AF Serial No. 59-0534, 1501 ATW — Destroyed 30 April 1967, ditched off of east coast of Okinawa, Japan after propellers became stuck in fixed pitch due to electrical problems in either propeller control or propeller power circuits

Aircraft on display

Douglas C-133A Cargomaster at the National Museum of the United States Air Force

Specifications (C-133B)

Data from [9]

General characteristics
  • Crew: six (two pilots, navigator, two flight engineers, loadmaster)
  • Payload: 110,000 lb (50,000 kg)
  • Length: 157 ft 6 in (48.0 m)
  • Wingspan: 179 ft 8 in (54.8 m)
  • Height: 48 ft 3 in (14.7 m)
  • Wing area: 2,673.1 ft² (248.34 m²)
  • Empty weight: 109,417 lb (49,631 kg)
  • Loaded weight: 275,000 lb (125,000 kg)
  • Max. takeoff weight: 286,000 lb (130,000 kg)
  • Powerplant: 4 × Pratt & Whitney T34-P-9W turboprops, 7,500 shp (5,586 kW) each
  • * Cargo deck : 86 ft 10 in (26.47 m)


See also

Aircraft of comparable role, configuration and era


  1. ^ Norton 2004, p.46.
  2. ^ "Latest Flying Freighter Can Carry 200 Troops." Popular Mechancs, April 1956 p. 109.
  3. ^ Francillon 1979, p.552.
  4. ^ a b c "Douglas C-133A Cargomaster."National Museum of the US Air Force. Retrieved: 24 August 2015.
  5. ^ a b C-133 Tail Numbers
  6. ^ C-133 Units
  7. ^ "The Crash of the C-133B near Travis AFB, CA". Retrieved 21 July 2013. 
  8. ^ Last C-133 flight, Travis Air Force Base airshow, 30 Aug 2008
  9. ^ The Aviation Zone (2005). "C-133 Cargomaster Specifications". Retrieved 28 August 2005.
  • Norton, Bill. "Forgotten Airlifter: The Short-Lived Douglas C-133 Cargomaster". Air Enthusiast, Number 110, March/April 2004. Stamford, Lincs, UK: Key Publishing. ISSN 0143 5450. pp. 45–53.
  • Francillon, René J. McDonnell Douglas Aircraft since 1920. London:Putnam, 1979. ISBN 0-370-00050-1.

External links

  • The Air Mobility Command Museum
  • Fact Sheets : Douglas C-133A Cargo Master. National Museum of the USAF.
  • "Remembering An Unsung Giant - The Douglas C-133 Cargomaster and Its People".
  • "The Curse of the Cargomaster". Air & Space Magazine
  • Final Flight, boeing377 blog
  • [2], "Douglas C-133 Cargomaster" Boeing Fact Sheet
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