Lockheed YC-141B StarLifter
The C-141 is the first all-jet powered military transport to enter service with the United States Air Force. In addition, the StarLifter is the first aircraft completely designed and built at the Lockheed plant in Marietta, GA. Well before the age of computer assistance, engineering and manufacturing was done by slide rules, manual calculations, and manual machining. Destined to replace its slower predecessors, the C-141 first roared down the runway at Dobbins Air Force Base on December 17, 1963 and took to the skies on the 60th anniversary of the Wright Brothers’ historic first powered flight. Early versions of the C-141 had a fuselage length of 145 feet, or 25 feet longer than Orville Wright’s first powered flight.
After over a decade of service, military and Lockheed engineers recognized that the C-141 could be improved. The plane was strong enough to carry more weight but needed additional volume to maximize the payload. Furthermore, the addition of aerial refueling capabilities would extend the range of the aircraft. Designers planned to insert two “plugs” into the fuselage, adding a total of 23 feet-4 inches of additional cargo space and add an aerial refueling receptacle on top of the flight deck.
In December of 1975, StarLifter 66-0186, on display at the Aviation History & Technology Center, landed at Dobbins Air Force Base to start testing for the modification process. In the Spring of 1976, #66-0186 became the prototype “stretched” version of the aircraft, earning it the “Y” in its official designation. Following successful testing of the YC-141B, an additional 269 of the original 285 C-141As were converted to “B” models .
President John F. Kennedy envisioned the C-141 as an asset that meant “the power of the United States will be felt on behalf of the cause of freedom all over the globe.” In the four decades that the C-141 was flown by U.S.A.F. personnel, it proved the president right. It served as the workhorse of the military, transporting cargo, equipment, troops, and wounded on military and humanitarian missions around the globe, from Vietnam to Hurricane Katrina.
December 17, 1963 (A Model)
U.S. Usage (all models)
Varies by mission, minimum of 5
168 ft. 4 in.
160 ft. 0 in.
Max. Takeoff Weight
4 x P&W TF-33-P-7
Used By (all models)
U.S. Air Force