Breitling DC-3 Flight

AMC Museum C-119B Restoration

February 2019

A two truck Worldwide Aircraft Recovery convoy, carrying the fuselage and wing boxes from C-119B 48-0352, arrived at Dover AFB, Delaware on August 30, 2018 after completing the 2,700 mile trek from Edwards AFB in California. The aircraft’s destination at the base was the Air Mobility Command (AMC) Museum, where it will be restored and added to the museum’s already impressive collection.

The C-119 is one of only two surviving C-119B’s and the second oldest C-119 in existence. It’s the only survivor of the eight C-119’s that airdropped M2 Treadway Bridge sections to US X Corps troops retreating from the Chosin Reservoir in December 1950. Prior to USAF retirement in December 1966, the aircraft was upgraded to a C-119C in 1956. After almost a decade of storage at Davis Monthan AFB, the aircraft was sold at DoD auction to Aero Union of Chico, California in 1975 and registered N13746. Aero Union modified it for firefighting, including the installation of a fuselage mounted auxiliary jet engine. The airplane was later sold to Hemet Valley Flying Service, where it saw service as Tanker #87. Due to safety concerns, C-119 firebombers were grounded in 1987 and the aircraft’s civilian registration was canceled in 1992. Subsequently the aircraft was moved to Edwards Air Force Base to become part of the Air Force Flight Test Museum collection. Sometime after being retired as a firebomber, the auxiliary jet engine was removed and the aircraft was painted in USAF markings.
After arriving at the museum, 48-0352 was set aside and stored for many years in deteriorating condition. It was offered for sale by GSA in January 2016 as a “scrap aircraft” with final bids due on February 2nd. By January 25th, only two bids had been received, with the highest being $1,000. In the eleventh hour, the National Museum of the USAF (NMUSAF) realized that the aircraft was worth saving because of its unique history and decreed that the AMC Museum at Dover AFB, Delaware would be the best location for its restoration and eventual display. The museum originally planned on transporting the entire aircraft from Edwards to Dover by air and, to that end, a team traveled to Edwards in the fall of 2016 and completed the task of disassembling and prepping the aircraft for air shipment. In December 2016, a C-5M Super Galaxy operated by Dover’s 709th Airlift Squadron arrived at Edwards and the first shipment was loaded on the aircraft and flown to Dover. Due to a number of factors, it was decided that the fuselage, wing boxes and engines would be transported to Dover separately be road. The move was completed with the arrival of the fuselage and wing boxes on August 30, 2018 and the aircraft’s two R-3350 engines on September 5th.
The AMC Museum plans on restoring the aircraft to its Korean War era configuration, which the museum’s director John Taylor estimates should take about 2½ years. John stresses that this is just an estimate as restoration projects involving old aircraft face many challenges including “surprises” found during restoration, the scarcity of parts and the need to do much of the restoration outdoors exposed to the elements. The dorsal fins and extended vertical stabilizers will be removed as they were modifications performed after the aircraft’s Korean War service. New outboard horizontal stabilizer extensions will be hand crafted and installed. The current plan is to display 48-0352 alongside the museum’s C-119G to show the evolution of this type of airlifter. Worldwide Aircraft Recovery was awarded a contract for the reassembly of the aircraft and work began in mid-February 2019.
While there’s a happy ending for 48-0352, the same cannot be said for the oldest surviving C-119. C-119B 48-0322 was sold for $10,400 to scrap dealer Harold Sheppard Jr in January 2016. While it’s the oldest surviving C-119, it didn’t have the same historical significance that saved 48-0352. After retirement from USAF service, the aircraft was modified as a firebomber and saw service with Hemet Valley Flying Service as N13745/Tanker #82. After retirement from firebomber service, it was donated to the now defunct Milestones of Flight Air Museum at Fox Field in Lancaster, California. Sheppard is a Wyoming based scrap dealer who also owns the Fox Field KC-97G along with numerous former Hawkins & Powers C-119, KC-97 and P-2 aircraft stored at Greybull, Wyoming. He claims to have no immediate plans to scrap 48-0322, so the news could have been much worse.
The AMC Museum should be commended for saving these two rare aircraft from the scrapman. In an era where many museums are looking to dispose of large aircraft, it’s encouraging to see that the AMC Museum is adding this type of aircraft to its collection. While most of the museum’s aircraft are displayed outside, they are impeccably maintained and a visit to this free museum is a must item on any Propliner enthusiasts bucket list.

Ralph M. Pettersen
February 2019

Photo Credits: Mike Leister, AMC Museum, Roger Syratt, Del Mitchell, Doug Fisher, Zachary Cacicia, Bob Leicht
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----Created 22 February 2019------Updated 3 March 2019----