These Record-Setting First-of-Their-Kind Strategic Airlifters Circled the Globe
Anyone who frequents Avgeekery.com knows we’re big Douglas C-133 Cargomaster fans. We’ve featured the big strategic airlifter in stories before, but this recently-discovered film deserves attention from Avgeekery Nation too. The film ‘The Long Right Arm’ features MATS at its finest and most critically important time. And not only is the viewer treated to an eyeful of C-133 footage, but there is quite a bit of screen time devoted to the Douglas C-124 Globemaster II as well. So enjoy the film, which was uploaded to YouTube by Periscope Film.
C-133s Went Everywhere With Everything
While the film chronicles airlift efforts going back to the Berlin Airlift and the Korean War, C-133s carried what needed to be carried wherever it needed to be. The film features then-current missile systems such as the Nike missile system, Thor intermediate-range ballistic missile (IRBM), as well as other strategic cargo including turbojet engines for the McDonnell Douglas F-4 Phantom II. When it came to supporting construction of the Distant Early Warning (DEW) radar systems, many of them located above the Arctic Circle, the C-133 was there.
When 50 Seemed Like Many More
Only 50 C-133s (35 C-133As and 15 C-133Bs) were built by Douglas starting in 1956. The innovative airlifters went from drawing board straight to production; no prototypes were built. Although C-133s ranged all over the planet and carried critically important cargo to nearly every allied country on Earth, they were based at only two Air Force Bases: Travis AFB in California and Dover AFB in Delaware. C-133s set world speed and payload records early on, and their distinctive droning engine/propeller sound was instantly recognized everywhere they went.
Uniquely Capable Until…
C-133s went right on hauling and droning after the Air Force reorganized commands, redesignating MATS as Military Airlift Command (MAC) in 1966. By then Cargomasters were providing critical support to Tactical Air Command squadrons in a faraway land called Vietnam. Lockheed’s C-141 Starlifter would shoulder a respectable portion of the airlift mission to WestPac, but with a larger and longer cargo bay, the C-133 still contributed. But the C-133s were well past their prime and simply worn out. It was only when the Lockheed C-5 Galaxy began serving in 1971 that C-133s were able to take a breather. Once the C-5 was found to be a viable replacement, the C-133 fleet began those sad last flights to the boneyard that same year.