C-123K Provider

Serial Number: 54-658

After serving in Vietnam, the museum’s Provider went on to further distinguished service. After retirement from the U.S. Air Force, it was acquired by the Department of State and was instrumental in the war on drugs in Peru. Moving food and medical supplies, building material, fuel, and whatever else was needed to support the forward bases, the plane took hostile fire on several occasions and was also instrumental in transporting casualties to help and safety. Because of its unique capabilities as a cargo transport plane and its ability to use unimproved landing strips in remote regions, the Peruvians nicknamed this plane “El Burro.”


The Provider is a short-range assault transport used to airlift troops and cargo onto short runways and unprepared airstrips. Designed by the Chase Aircraft Co., the C-123 evolved from earlier designs for large assault gliders. The first prototype XC-123 made its initial flight on 14 October 1949, powered by two piston engines. A second prototype was built as the XG-20 glider. It was later test flown, powered by four jet engines. The production version, with two piston engines, was designated the C-123B. Chase began manufacture in 1953, but the production contract was transferred to Fairchild. The first of more than 300 Fairchild-built C-123Bs entered service in July 1955. Between 1966 and 1969, 184 C-123Bs were converted to C-123Ks by adding two J85 jet engines for improved performance.


  • Manufacturer: Fairchild Aircraft
  • First Flight: 14 October 1949
  • Retired: 1976
  • Crew: Pilot, co-pilot, flight engineer, navigator
  • Payload: 24,000 lbs; or 61 troops
  • Length: 76 ft 3 in
  • Wingspan: 110 ft
  • Height: 34 ft 1 in
  • Empty Weight: 35,366 lbs
  • Loaded Weight: 60,000 lbs
  • Powerplant: 2x Pratt & Whitney R-2800-99W radials; 2x General Electric J85-GE-17 turbojets
  • Maximum Speed: 228 mph
  • Cruise Speed: 173 mph
  • Range: 1,035 mi
  • Service Ceiling: 21,100 ft
Assignment History

The assignment history for the Air Mobility Command Museum's C-123K Provider, serial number 54-658:

Date Location
Apr 1956 to 513th Troop Carrier Squadron, Assault (Tactical Air Command), Sewart AFB, Tennessee
Jul 1958 to 346th Tactical Airlift Squadron (TAC), Pope AFB, North Carolina
Dec 1961 to 464th Tactical Airlift Wing (TAC), Pope AFB, North Carolina
Jul 1963 to 2nd Air Division HQ (Pacific Air Forces), Da Nang AB, South Vietnam
Oct 1965 to 377th Combat Support Group (PAF), Tan Son Nhut AB, South Vietnam
Sep 1966 to 35th Tactical Fighter Wing (PAF), Da Nang AB, South Vietnam
Jul 1967 to 315th Air Commando Wing (PAF), Phan Rang AB, South Vietnam
Jul 1968 to 315th Air Commando Wing (PAF), Bien Hoa AB, South Vietnam
May 1970 to 24th Special Operations Wing (Southern Air Command), Howard AFB, Panama
Nov 1971 to 906th Tactical Airlift Group (Air Force Reserve), Lockbourne AFB, Ohio
Jun 1975 to 356th Tactical Airlift Squadron (AFR), Lockbourne AFB, Ohio
Jan 1976 to 355th Tactical Airlift Squadron (AFR), Rickenbacker AFB, Ohio
Jul 1987 to Military Aircraft Storage Center (Air Force Logistics Command), Davis-Monthan AFB, Arizona
Apr 1987 Disposition by transfer to U.S. State Department


  • My vietnamese uncle flew a c123 in 1963 to parachute sog commandos in north vietnam, but died in 1964 when his plane struck monkey mountain. He was formed in Hurlburt field, Florida. Did someone knew this contingent of south vietnamese aircrew who are training to low-level flight and para drop in Hurlburt 1963-1964 ?

  • I flew the C 123K in the 310th Tac Airlift Squadron first at Phang Rang, then later at Tan Son Nhut. I had the honor of being inducted into the enlisted organization of the “Red Eyes” as an officer. I was an aircraft commander and have many memories of flying the C123. I was 25 years old, the oldest person on my crew, and as the aircraft commander(same as a captain in the airlines) was the boss of our crew which as I look back is astounding to have had such responsibility at such a young age. That’s a tribute to the Air Force training and the guys on my crew. I definitely remember Tony Arzate and would appreciate your sending this to Tony along with my email so I could say hello to him. Recently, I was contacted by Terry Justice who was my flight mech(flight engineer) and it was great to talk to him after all these years. As I look back on my time in the C123, I am glad to have had the time flying that aircraft when I was young and adventurous. A lot of great guys in my squadron.

  • Can anyone tell me if any C123’s were ever worked on at Tachikawa Air Base in 1968 to 1969?

    • Scott, I lived at Tachi from 1970 to 1972, my father was a C-123 pilot who was one of the USAF personnel liaised to the Royal Thai Air Force Detachment there. When we lived at Tachi, the runway was closed and aircraft flew in and out of Yokota AFB. The RTAF flew 123s and used Yokota as their strip. The RTAF squadron had their office in Tachi. My father doesn’t remember if 123s flew out of Tachi and doesn’t think they did. On a side note, I left Japan at the end of 1972, joined the Navy, flew back Space A to Yokota in mid 1973 to visit my family who was till there and my father asked if I wanted to go with him and the Thais to Korea? I got to fly in the 123 with him on the trip, what a great experience.

  • What was the fuel capacity of the aircraft? Was Avgas the fuel?

  • Hello:

    While searching on the inter-net, I came across your web site, very interesting.

    I have a question regarding the first C-123 and UC-123K’s during the Vietnam War. Were they delivered in Natural Metal or were they in the SEA Camouflage? Most of the pictures that I have seen show it in the SEA colors but I have not seen too many if at all of them in natural metal that were taken during the war. I have seen a lot of pictures of the B’s in natural metal though.

    Thank you in advance.

    Michael Turner

    • 115-145 grade avgas. each necel tank behind those R2800 engines held 728 gallons. All tanks could be jettisoned. I believe the pylon tanks were around 100 gals. Soo total capacity would be close to 1700 gals.

      I served at Nha Trang AB on UC123K’s in 1968. I only saw one that was without camo. Ours were camo black. Operation Heavy Hook.

  • The tail markings “WM” was the designation of the 310th TAS at Phan Rang AB, Viet Nam. I worked the Phase Docks there from Jan. 71-Dec.71.
    After being a Crew Chief on A-1E’s at Hurlburt Field, I loved the C-123’s at Phan Rang

    • Lyndell (Lew) Lewis

      I was a crew chief, 310th from Dec 69 to Dec 70, also worked the A1E at Hurlburt before shipping over

  • russell joseph francis

    Another proud flight engineer of the C-123k flying for the 356th out of Rickenbacker 1976 thru 1982 under Jack Romero. Charley Mercer and Frank Chraznowski trained me, I have many good memories with friends traveling all over in these birds.

  • I flew on the C=123K in Nakom Phanom Thailand with the “Candlesticks”. We flew night missions over The Trail. We were forward air control and flare drops. We carried a crew of pilot, copilot engineer and two loadmasters. We carried two starlight scopes and 100 flares, and spotted trucks and called in fighter support.

  • Can someone tell me what the internal cargo area dimensions were for the C-123 Provider?

    • According to the 1C-123B-9 Cargo Tech Manual, Paragraph 2-5:
      “The cargo compartment, including ramp, is basically a rectangular space 444 inches long, 98 inches high and 110 inches wide between the inner walls of the main wheel well.” This includes the retractable loading ramp. The paragraph then talks about some of the unusable pockets within that space, including considerations for utilizing the ramp for cargo. Followed by, “The length of the compartment forward of the ramp is 345 inches along the centerline of the aircraft, but because of [lists several factors] limits this distance to basically 290 [usable] inches.”

  • I was a Loadmaster in the 24th SOW – 605th SOS at Howard AFB, Panama from June 1970 to August 1971. Checking my logs, I flew on this aircraft many times during that period.

  • I proudly served on board the C-123K as a ‘Flight Engineer’ in Vietnam under Operation ‘Ranch Hand’, having trained at Hurlburt Field, Eglin AFB, Fl., we were all ‘performance qualified’, Flight qualified, Airdrop qualified.. from there I was assigned to the 315th Air Commando Wing initially at Phan Rang AB, Vietnam. There were 2 parts to the Squadron, one being the famous or infamous some think ‘Spray Birds’, the second was the ‘Fly to were ever-when ever’ bunch, anything involving Troop movements, Cargo, Air Drop etc., I flew with the latter.. We were a bunch of ‘gung ho’ sort of group of young Air Crews, but were like ‘Brothers’.. I belonged to a small group calling ourselves the ‘Red Eyes’, each had a special designation call name, i.e. Tony-i, Dave-i, etc., We flew all over Vietnam. The most demanding mission was that of Volunteering to fly into the border between Laos and Vietnam to evacuate a Montagnard Village ( the famous peoples who so valiantly helped fight the VC and who where attached to Special Green Beret Units), We flew under the control of a FAC (foward air controller) dropped in specially for the mission.. there was nothing there except for a dirt kinda strip , our landing zone.. landed from up high, due to heavy mortar fire.. made a hard landing and evacuated the entire Village, did 3 trips in and back that day.. in the process getting peppered with small ground fire the entire time. My time with the C-123K Providers has been the Best of my time til now… just a bit of History for all to read and remember.

    • Howdy,
      The Ranch Hand Association will be holding its 51st reunion during Columbus Day weekend at the Ramada Beach Resort in Ft Walton Beach, FL. Feel free to be there.

    • Mr. Arzate, thank you for your service. I’m writing a story about a 123 crew and I wondered if I could ask you a few questions. First, in the literature, the crew is listed as four: pilot, co-pilot, navigator and flight engineer. Was there a loadmaster added in Vietnam? If not, who handled the cargo? If it was the flight engineer, did the pilot work his own throttles in the 123? My father was a flight engineer on a 118, and a 123 in the war, and I believe he told me controlled the throttles. Also, was the navigator usually an enlisted man? Thanks, I’d really appreciate any help you can give, and I thank you in advance for your time.

  • In the April 1956 entry I believe the base should be Sewart AFB, Smyrna, TN instead of Stewart AFB (New York). Very common mistake. In the Nov 1971 entry the word Lockbourne is spelled incorrectly. Really enjoying this web site. God bless our troops, past and present.

  • Robert Johnson

    While at Rickenbacker AFB I became the crew chief of this aircraft. I crewed it from 1974 till 1982. When the aircraft arrived at Rickenbacker the right wheel door was opened for the first time and a spent 50 caliber spent shell fell out. The aircraft was one of the most dependable of the fleet. It never aborted a flight while I crewed it. The left engine (#1) lasted to its time limit. It had been nearly maintenance free and it was decided to extend the overhaul time 10%. at the end we were slowly sending planes to Davis-Monthan AFB for final storage. One schedule to be shipped soon had low time engines. 658’s left engine was high time and was swapped to that airplane that left a few weeks later for storage. I was also a flight mechanic and flew a few maintenance test flights on it.

  • Allan Allridge

    I was a “Flight Line Mechanic” and flew on this particular aircraft as a “Flight Mechanic” for the Air Force Reserves at Rickenbacker AFB from 1975 to Nov 1976. I was with the 302nd TAW at that time that included all C-123Ks from Rickenbacker Air Force Reserve Base, 911 Pittsburgh USAF Reserve Base, Pittsburgh PA and Westover AFB MA. I flew all the Rickenbacker C-123Ks including UC-123-Ks, and all 911 TAS in Pittsburgh PA and accumulated over 1800 flight hours total as a Flight Mechanic. The official crew designation at time for the C-123K was Flight Mechanic and not Flight Engineer. The reason why from what I was told that Flight Engineers attended the USAF Performance Course and Fight Mechanic were not required to be performance qualified. I later attended the USAF Flight Engineer Performance Course at Altus AFB in 1982 when I was upgrading to a C-141B Flight Engineer position for the 313 TAS in Mc Chord AFB.

  • Bruce B Allen

    While serving with the 82nd Abn Recon Company I was involved with some testing of the c-123s. We would load up at Pope AFB, short flight, land on a drop zone, same areas we jumped on (can’t remember which one now) not quite stopping the plane. tail was dropping as we were landing, got the green light while moving and we would exit the plane. Drive around simulating and assault and return to a landing plane, still moving forward on the drop zone, up the ramp, secure the “jeep” signal the flight crew and up we would go. Very exciting stuff for a young man. They were something new to all of us and they were just starting to use them as jump planes, I was jumping c-119’s Globmasters? c-118s I think and we were starting to use twin rotor helicopters, Shawnee’s I think also Beaver small aircraft. Lot’s of fun for a young guy. but I said that, smiling of course. this was around 1955 or 1956

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