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.


360° Panoramic Tour

  • 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
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In August 1971 I trained on the C123K as an A1C at England AFB, Louisiana with the 4410 Combat Crew Training Squadron. Attended FTD school there to gain in depth training of the aircraft. We trained VNAF pilots there for the duration. Worked the night shift which consisted of just a handful of men to service, maintain, and repair the aircraft every night, there were approximately 27 aircraft and we really busted ass every night trying to get them ready for next mornings missions.

AGENT ORANGE question. I selected a C-123K assignment to Phang Rang as my first assignment out of pilot training, and flew the aircraft at England AFB before heading for Vietnam. At Fairchild AFB, 4 days before my departure from San Francisco to Clark for Jungle Survival School, my assignment was cancelled along with all C-123/C-47 assignments and we were reassigned to SAC and MAC. My question is, were the C-123Ks we flew at England AFB in the fall of 1971 included in the inventory suspected of having previously carried AO or having been flying combat ops in SEA? I was on the ground in Saigon and at based in Thailand where AO was used, so my cancer is already covered. Just curious about it because England aircraft aren’t mentioned in the VA documents.

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.

I know you Jim Eye. We spent a lot of time together. I lost my NCO club card for you. Lol. I have been in touch with Frank and Randy. Oh ya remember the sand bags

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.

Scott I was the aircraft mechanic on those birds exactly the same time your Dad was piloting them. Major Zirger and Captain Erickson were the two training pilots. Worked on the C123s for 3 years- pretty much knew them inside and out.
Small world. A friend of mine from NKP Thailand just sent this link to me today. Say hello to your dad for me and wish him well.

Scott I don’t know about the 123s at Tackikawa. When I got there in 70 Tachikawa was closed due to a ground fault under the runway. I was crew chief on one of the three C123s at Yokota. They were training birds for the Royal Thai Air Force. Worked on them until 72 and had my four year Air Force stint over.

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


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

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

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.”

Thank you for the information. Follow up: is that tech manual available anywhere online?

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… Read more »

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.

I flew in the 310 Air Commando C-123s 1965-1966. We only carried a Nav on

drops and over water (to Clark, etc.) The loadmaster was an assigned member of our crew with the engineer. My loadmaster was young but outstanding (later retired as an E9). He passed on a few years ago (too much Agent Orange). They tried to NOT spray directly over the Special Forces Camps so we flew it in (55 gal. ) and they sprayed it around.

I rode on a military hop on leave from the Army in 1959, on an Air National Guard C-123. There was an E-5 sergeant who was the loadmaster/crew chief and he spent all his time in the cargo hold, even though there was no cargo. One interesting event was when I pushed my nose against the cargo door window and it popped open, as it hadn’t been latched. In a flash, I had one hand on something inside the door and the other hand on the ripcord. I thought I might go out, but the sergeant came streaking across the hold and grabbed me by the belt and pulled me back. He had neglected to latch the door. The pilots noticed something and called back, asking what had happened. I told the sergeant that we didn’t need to tell anyone about it and could keep it our own secret. He looked very relieved, but I’ll bet he never failed to double-check that latch again.

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.

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.

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.

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

Just to clarify, C-119 was the “Flying Boxcar”‘ The “Globemaster” was the C-124. Bill