The C-123 was originally designed to be a glider by the Chase Aircraft Company. Fairchild Aviation inherited the design and created the Provider. The plane was designed to fly from short, unprepared runways and incorporated a rear ramp for parachute jumps, cargo drops and parachute drag unloading. The plane could carry most Army wheeled vehicles and howitzers. The C-123 was used extensively in Viet Nam as the primary Agent Orange defoliant sprayship. A modified C-123 served as General William Westmoreland’s executive transport. No fuel is carried in the wings of the aircraft. All is carried in the engine nacelles or wing drop tanks to reduce the chance of fire in combat. This attributed to the Provider’s relatively short combat radius.
Airplanes - Military - Static Display - Cargo
Our C-123K is the troop transport version of the “Provider”. The museum’s C-123 was originally built as a B model, serial number 54-612, manufactured by Fairchild Aircraft, Hagerstown, MD, and was delivered to the Air Force on December 20, 1955 at Ardmore AFB, OK. This aircraft was flown by 10 different units assigned to the Tactical Air Command, Air Force Reserve, and a two-year stint with USAFE at Dreux AB, France, as well as nine months at Leopoldville AP, Congo, until 1965. Our aircraft was converted from a B model to a K model in 1967. This aircraft is on loan from the USAF.
According to the Air Force Historical Research Agency (AFHRA/RSA), Maxwell AFB, AL, the museum’s C-123K has the following history:
Our C-123 served at the following locations:
Feb 1956 - To 309th Troop Carrier (Assault) Group (TAC), Ardmore AFB OK
May 1956 - To 60th Troop Carrier (M) Wing (USAFE), Dreux AB France
Jul 1958 - To 2584th Air Reserve Flying Center (AFRES), Memphis MAP TN
Aug 1958 - To 2589th Air Reserve Flying Center (AFRES),
Dec 1958 - To 445th Troop Carrier Wing (AFRES), Dobbins AFB GA.
Jun 1963 - To 918th Troop Carrier Wing (AFRES), Dobbins AFB GA
May 1965 - To 1st Air Commando Wing (TAC), Hurlburt Field FL
Aug 1965 - To 1127th Field Activities Squadron (USAFE), Leopoldville AP Congo
Apr 1966 - To 1st Air Commando Wing (TAC), England AFB LA
Jun 1967 - To Fairchild, Hagerstown MD (converted to C-123K)
Aug 1967 - Returned to 1st Air Commando Wing
Mar 1968 - Unit became 1st Special Operations Wing (assignments to Lockbourne AFB OH)
Aug 1969 - Unit moved to Hurlburt Field FL
Jan 1972 - To 906th Tactical Airlift Group (AFRES), Lockbourne AFB OH
Jun 1975 - To 355th Tactical Airlift Squadron (AFRES), Lockbourne (later Rickenbacker) AFB OH
Sep 1981 - Dropped from USAF inventory by transfer to school or museum
It made its last flight into March Field in 1981.
In 1998, the plane was restored and painted in the markings it wore while assigned to the 1st Special Operations Wing, Eglin AFB, FL. Its nose art, “The Chief”, is in honor of its volunteer Crew Chief, retired Chief Master Sergeant Jim Meek. Jim was the flight chief for one of the first C-123J’s equipped with ski’s to land in Greenland in 1958. He has given over 10,000 volunteer hours to the museum and has cared for the C-123 since 1981.