Friday, January 20, 2012

Packets and WACOs

The first of today's three images is probably a staged Air
Force publicity shot.
At first glance, you might think that this was a photo of a Fairchild C-119 Flying Boxcar. At first glance at this small image, that's what I thought. But a careful look reveals that it's not. Rather, this is a Fairchild C-82A Packet, one of only 223 that were built between 1945 and 1948, and for today's post, we have three unrelated images that all feature the C-82.

The Packet, unfortunately, was somewhat of a failure. It was underpowered, and the design of the fuselage made it less than ideal for the cargo it was intended to carry. The Air Force wasn't happy, and asked Fairchild to redesign the aircraft. Initially designated the XC-82B, the redesign utilized larger engines, and the cockpit was moved forward, freeing up cargo space. Now happy, the Air Force ordered this new version into production as the better-known C-119 Flying Boxcar, and over 1,100 were built.

This image is clearly a staged scene, rather 
than a personal, impromptu snap. The 
aircraft is way too shiny for an in-service 
cargo bird, the crewmen are a little too
cleanly dressed and positioned, and when 
unloading such cargo,  no one in their right 
might would park the plane diagonally on 
the taxiway.
Despite its shortcomings, the C-82 did achieve a level of immortality as a movie star in the original 1965 production of The Flight of the Phoenix. One flying and two wrecked airframes were used in the making of the film. The 2004 remake of the movie, however, featured a C-119.

But what is especially interesting about two of these  photos is what's in their backgrounds. One of the C-82's roles was that of glider tow. During the war, WACO built over 13,000 CG-4 troop gliders, which were towed into combat behind transports such as the C-46 and C-47.

Today's second image shows a much more candid scene. The
troops are doing their job without nice white uniforms and the
photo's composition indicates a quick, on-the-fly snap. Also
note that this is probably an older image, as there is no Air
Force lettering on the plane, and the insignia is the older version
The glider shown above was the follow-on version, the WACO CG-15, later redesignated the G-15 after the Army Air Corps became the USAF in 1947. Though smaller than the CG-4, the G-15 carried the same number of troops - 15 to 16 - but its smaller wingspan allowed a higher maximum airspeed of 180 knots, to accommodate being towed behind newer, faster transports like the C-82A.

But with the end of the war, it became clear that large troop-carrying gliders were no longer relevant, and the production contract was cancelled, with only 473 aircraft built. Only one complete G-15 fuselage has survived the years, and is awaiting restoration at the WACO Museum and Aviation Learning Center at the historic WACO Field, Troy, Ohio. (Images of the current condition of the airframe can be seen here - you'll have to scroll about 3/4 down the page.)

Lastly for this week is this image of three GIs. Handwritten inscription on the back of the photo says "Last day at Benning." No idea who these three are, but what I found interesting (and why I acquired the photo) are the three C-82s in the background which are in various stages of disassembly.

If anyone has stories of what the aircraft were utilized for at Fort Benning, please share!


  1. Hi, The C-82 was used briefly at Ft. Benning in its Airborne School. The GI's in the picture look to be "legs" (non-airborne). Great pix! Followed a link from Dark Roasted Blend. Respects, Tom

  2. Hi Tom, Thanks for that! I'd forgotten about the airborne aspect of Ft. Benning.

  3. Alan,
    The area in the background with the three soldiers was a training field that taught securing vehicles and other equipment in these aircraft. The ones you see as appearing in disassembly are actually non-operational displays for this training. The field was named "Wilson Field" and is located only a few hundred yards from the airfield seen in the other photos. The road they are standing on leads to the airfield. This training was a special one week training phase that was part of parachute training, but only for NCOs (and officers too I think). It was only during the 40s and 50s. Photos of this area are rare and I would like to get a scan of this one for my research and future book publication if possible. All of these images are Fort Benning and in the airfield ones you can see the helmet liners with white stripe, which is headgear of Infantry School instructors. In this case, these are Airborne School instructors (which was and still is under the Infantry School - thus the identifying headgear).

    1. Thanks for the really valuable info! Would be happy to provide a higher res scan to you...but your comment was posted anonymously, so i have no clue how to get it to you. Email me at airphotoservices at gmail dot com!