C-141A Starlifter

This is part of the museum's First, Last, and Only aircraft—View the others

Serial number 61-2775 was the very first of 284 C-141A Starlifters ever built and had its maiden flight on 17 December 1963, the 60th Anniversary of the Wright Brothers first flight.

This C-141A Starlifter spent its entire career as a test aircraft in numerous programs. It is one of only two remaining “A” models and is the only known four engine jet used to tow a glider. The last program this A model carried out, known as Eclipse, was to test a new tension rope from NASA while towing a QF-106 in air.


Introduced to replace slower piston-engined cargo planes such as the C-124 Globemaster II, the C-141 was designed to requirements set in 1960 and first flew in 1963. Production deliveries of an eventual 285 planes began in 1965: 284 for the Air Force, and one for the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) for use as an airborne observatory.

The C-141 Starlifter was the workhorse of the Air Mobility Command from the 1970s into the early 2000s. The Starlifter fulfilled the vast spectrum of airlift requirements through its ability to airlift combat forces over long distances, delivering those forces and their equipment either by air, land or airdrop, resupply forces and transport the sick and wounded from the hostile area to advanced medical facilities.

Project Eclipse

NASA Dryden Flight Research Center supported a Kelly Space and Technology, Inc. (KST)/U.S. Air Force project, known as Eclipse, which demonstrated a reusable tow launch vehicle concept.

The purpose of the project was to demonstrate a reusable tow launch vehicle concept conceived and patented by KST. Kelly Space obtained a contract with the USAF Research Laboratory for the tow launch demonstration project under the Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) program. The USAF SBIR contract included the modifications to turn the QF-106 into the Experimental Demonstrator #1 (EXD-01), and C-141A aircraft to incorporate the tow provisions to link the two aircraft, as well as conducting flight tests. The demonstration consisted of ground and flight tests.

These included a Combined Systems Test of both airplanes joined by a tow rope, a towed taxi test, and six towed flights. The project’s primary goal of demonstrating the tow phase of the Eclipse concept using a scaled-down tow aircraft (C-141A) and a representative aerodynamically-shaped aircraft (QF-106A) as a launch vehicle was successfully accomplished.

On Feb. 6, 1998, the Eclipse project made its sixth and final towed flight, bringing the project to a successful completion. Preliminary flight results determined that the handling qualities of the QF-106 on tow were very stable; actual flight measured values of tow rope tension were well within predictions by the simulation, aerodynamic characteristics and elastic properties of the tow rope were a significant component of the towing system; and Dryden’s high-fidelity simulation provided a representative model of the performance of the QF-106 and C-141A airplanes in tow configuration. Total time on tow for the entire project was 5 hours, 34 minutes, and 29 seconds. All six flights were highly productive, and all project objectives were achieved.


Project Eclipse Gallery

Serial Number: 61-2775
First Flight:
17 Dec 1963
Crew: Two pilots, two flight engineers, one navigator, one loadmaster; five medical crew on medevac missions
Payload: 50,000 lbs
Powerplant: 4x Pratt & Whitney TF33-P-7 turbofans
145 ft
160 ft
39 ft 3 in
Empty Weight:
136,900 lbs
Loaded Weight:
323,100 lbs
Maximum Speed:
565 mph
Cruise Speed:
491 mph
Range: 3,600 mi
Service Ceiling: 42,250 ft
AMC Museum Restoration Crew Chief: Gary Kutsch

Assignment History

The assignment history for the Air Mobility Command Museum's C-141A Starlifter, serial number 61-2775:

Date Location
7 Sept 1963 First C-141A built—Completed as test aircraft C-141A, gained by Systems Command
17 Dec 1963 First flight
31 Mar 1964 Converted as test aircraft from C-141A to JC-141A
31 May 1967 Converted as test aircraft from JC-141A to C-141A
25 Sept 1969 Converted as test aircraft from C-141A to NC-141A
12 Dec 1969 Assigned as test aircraft, Aeronautical Systems Division, Wright-Patterson AFB, OH, Systems Command
30 Nov 1972 Assigned as test aircraft, 4950th Test Wing, Wright-Patterson AFB, OH, Systems Command
4 Sept 1996 Assigned as NC-141A test aircraft, 4950th Test Wing, Wright-Patterson AFB, OH, Systems Command
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In December 1964 went Tinker AFB to the 1707 FMS, then changed to 443 FMS two years.four C141A, then to Dover AFB l see that David Stone made a comment he got to Dover AFB as I was leaving for Grissom AFB after two. At McChord AFB 62 FMS for five years. Then Wright Pat , had four C141A 4950 FMS. 14 years working C141A.

I was a 19 year old Loadmaster on the C141A at Dover, 9th MAS (Pelican Airlines) from October 1966 to summer 1968 when the 9th was de-activated and we were transferred up to McGuire AFB, New Jersey as the 18th MAS. Flew many round trips to Vietnam during those years, brought many wounded home on medevac flights and brought many fallen brothers home to the mortuary at Dover from that terrible conflict. Rounded out my 4 years service at Cam Ranh Bay flying on Operation Commando Vault daisy cutter bomb drops out of C130s. Crazy days and trying times for us veterans and for our country.

I was stationed at McChord AFB 1967 thru 1971 eventually became crew chief on tail # 70012. We served the Vietnam theator. Such a great aircraft. Great memories!!

This was the “Freedom Bird!” She carried men into battle and brought them home again: some to families and lovers, some to honor and rest.
She brought the guests of the Hanoi Hilton home to freedom, and she brought me back from the sea locked solitudes of Shemya. When I later joined the Reserves and signed on for Loadmaster, I was offered the choice of the C-5A or the mini-jet C-141. Hands down, I chose the Freedom Bird.
Any Star Fleet officer would be proud to command and fly her! She was adventure, excitement, sweat, toil, terror, fabulous, fascinating, frantic, fatiguing, furious, thrilling and fun! Our feelings working her ranged from sublime to pucker-factor nine. She was our mistress: our lover and our task master. We were at her beck and call, and we were proud to be seen with her anywhere in the world.
She rests and rusts now row by row, and all who flew her and knew her show the respect as due a fallen son laid to rest in Arlington.

I have a question. How many refueling stops would a C141A have to make on a flight from Germany to Vietnam in 1967? Where would those refueling stops have been? Did this every happen?

I flew them from 11972-1979. I was not aware that there ever was a direct flight (one airplane, with or without stops) between Germany and Vietnam, but it would have been possible. Not non-stop, of course, since they were not air-refuelable back then. If the objective were to get from Germany to Vietnam quickly, the route might have looked like: Germany – Saudi (refuel) – Vietnam (although this would result in overflight of India, which may or may not have been politically possible at that time). Another stop in Thailand would allow for flight around India. More likely, to get from Germany to Vietnam in that era, one would take the regular MAC system flights the other way — Germany to Dover to Elmendorf to Yokota (Tokyo) to Vietnam. Very unlikely to have a single plane for that route, more likely a change of planes at least at Dover and Yokota. I flew all of those legs at one time or another except for the last leg into Vietnam, which was usually purloined by west coast crews for the tax deductions! ( I flew out of Charleston)

I was a flight test engineer on C-141 775 while it was flying out of Wright Patterson with the 4950th Test Wing during 1974-1978 flying with the Pulse-Doppler-Map-Matching (PDMM) program. We flew out of many places in CONUS and for about a month deployed to Kwajalein in the Pacific
I would like to get in touch with some members of the flight crew for those missions and compare/trade pictures with them. Any suggestions? I have several names of aircrew but for privacy interest did not post them in this comment.

Thanks Much,
Lt. Col. Richard (Dick) Brunson, Ret

Flew C-141Bs out of Norton AFB in the late ’80s but worked on the A-models at Wright Patt. I was assigned to the 17th Bomb Wing. When it was disbanded, I moved across the field to the 4950th Test Wing. Scariest time ever in a plane happened in one of those A models while on the ground.

I did get to go with one of them on a trip from WPAFB, to D.C.(probably Langley), to Travis, to Hickman, and finally to Christchurch with a bunch of physics majors. Fun trip commanded by a Captain (at the time) who I think was the first to fly the B-2.

Loved my enlisted time as an avionics tech but piloting T-37s, T-38s and C-141s was awesome.

J.G. VanMeter, Capt, USAF (Ret)

Dover was my first assignment out of jet engine tech school and I was there from March 1969 to April 1971 when many from Dover were transferred when the C5s came in and the old C133s were phased out. Those leaving went to McGuire or Hill AFB in Utah. I and a fairly large group of the FMS personnel went to Hill to work on 5 different models of helicopters. After 15 months at Hill I extended my enlistment one year for a PCS to Ubon Thailand to work on F4s. I spent some time TDY in Danang. After coming home to Ohio in July 1973 I enrolled at Ohio State and joined the reserves as an engineer on C-123s for a while. I miss those days. . . and I miss being 19 or 20 or 21 or 22 or 23.

I was a crew chief on tail number 0132 in the early 80’s at McGuire AFB,New Jersry. I was discharged in 1984.

I was a port dawg with the 58th APS and in 1993 merged with the 67th APS at Hill AFB, UT. The C-141 was my baby. I loved downloading and uploading cargo and pax on this bird. It was easy to load plan because the weight and balance were so simple. I retired in 2002 and they retired the starlifter in 2006. I was to see it go. But that was my bird. It came on board when I was a fifth grader at Nellis AFB, and we retired almost together just four years apart.

The First of the Fleet 61-2775 also participated in Operation Desert Shield/Desert Storm. 2775 and 2776 Were the only two C-141A models to fly support missions. One on the first mission I was the Crew Chief on 2775 and Robert Henseleit was the Crew Chief on 2776. Both aircraft had a 97% reliability rate for all the missions flown. Both aircraft were de-moded and were readied for cargo and personnel support missions throughout the world.

I’m Mike “Fergy” Ferguson. Bob H. Assistant on 2776. 4950 TW. Great aircraft and lots of air time. Desert storm Vet. Gulf War Vet on C141B too.

Does anyone out there know the stall speed of the C-141? I was a paratrooper in 1970 and in the first class that made all of our 5 qualifying jumps from the C-141. When the Jumpmaster would open the rear doors and deploy the spoilers, the noise was deafening and just added to our fear. I’m thinking it was somewhere around 130 mph, about the same speed as the wind of Hurricane Irma.
Thank you.

I jumped the C141 at Ft. Bragg in the spring of 1968. We were told the stall speed was 150 knots. A piece of PAP (pierced aluminum planking) was welded on the forward side of the door as a baffle to reduce fouling of our chutes. I think using the 141 for jumps was still being tested at that time.

I jumped from the 141 in 1967 at either Fort Kobe, Panama or Ft. Campbell, Kentucky.

My first assignment from reserve travis to norton acrive 141b jet shop hot and heavy miss it.

C141A Pilot, 1969/1973, 60th Wing, 938 MAG, Travis AFB, CA. 1900+ hrs. with many cargo flights to Vietnam and many Air Evac flights in return to Hickam with the patient load. Air Evac from Yokota also. Several Reforger flights to Ramstein Germany. Fun plane to fly. Example: Cold day, Misawa, Japan, empty plane, max power before brake release, keep on runway past rotation speed. Yoke back. It climbed like a fighter to 20,000. ATC departure was surprised at the climb rate.

I briefly saw what must have been the NASA C-141 taxiing on the Southeast ramp while I was working in a hanger at MIA in February, 2016. Couldn’t make out a tail number but did some looking on line. It was reported stored in Feb when I saw it.

I was stationed at Charleston AFB early 70s (C-141A) before the conversion to “B” models.

Possibly starliftski il-76, 141’s gone long ago.

(Museum note: Bryan is referring to the Russian Ilyushin Il-76 which resembles a C-141.)

Thank You,

very helpful information. I had doubts about the number of aircraft and also wasn´t sure about the years of construction.

Stationed at Altus AFB 69-75, crew chief on various tail numbers and supervised the Home Station Check team.

Actually, 286 StarLifters were built, 284 for USAF, 1 for NASA, and 1 for a private air freight company. I’ve forgotten that company’s name.

Thank you for this beautiful page honoring 61-2775, known by Lockheed simply as 12775. Many years ago, Lockheed sent me a picture of her on her maiden flight bearing this tail number. Many years later, you sent me a picture of her in her gray-and-white livery. Many thanks!