Ready to Fly, Fight, and Win

Happy Birthday to the Air Force Reserves

The Air Force is the youngest of the military branches, but has had a huge impact since its formation. Part of that success has been thanks to having reserves ready to step in when needed, in both times of war and peace. Formed April 14, 1948, by order of President Harry Truman, the Air Force Reserves have been instrumental in our nation’s defense, flying missions around the world and supporting the active duty forces.

To help celebrate, we take a look at six of the key transport aircraft they’ve flown throughout the years.

C-46 CommandoC46

The largest twin-aircraft in the world when it was built, the Commando was used as a transport plane extensively during World War II and immediately after. As payloads increased, however, the need for a larger plane meant the Commando’s days with the military were numbered. Some C-46s, however, are still being used in the civilian sector by some small transport companies.

  • Crew: 4
  • Length: 76 feet, 4 inches
  • Wingspan: 108 feet
  • Maximum speed: 270 mph
  • Capacity: 15,000 lbs.

C-199 Flying Boxcar


With its distinctive twin tail design and odd shape, the C-199 was affectionately known as the “Flying Boxcar” due to its look. It saw extensive action in the Korean war, in French Indo-China, and even some during Vietnam. Although production ended after just six years (1949-1955), they were still being used as wildfire-fighting tankers by the U.S. Forest Service and Bureau of Land Management up until 1987.

  • Crew: 5
  • Length: 86 feet 6 inches
  • Wingspan: 109 feet, 3 inches
  • Maximum speed: 296 mph
  • Capacity: 10,000 lbs of cargo

C-141 Starlifter


The first jet aircraft specifically designed to transport troops and equipment, the Starlifter stayed in service for more than 40 years. The first one flew its inaugural flight Dec. 17, 1963 (60 years to the day after the Wright Brother’s first flight), and in 1965 the first paratroopers to jump from a jet-powered aircraft did so out of a Starlifter. One particular model known as the “Hanoi Taxi” was on hand for both the evacuation of Saigon in 1973 (it was the first aircraft to land in North Vietnam for Operation Homecoming) and was around the help evacuate New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina nearly 30 years later.

  • Crew: 5–7
  • Length: 168 feet 4 inches
  • Wingspan: 160 feet
  • Maximum speed: 567 mph
  • Capacity: 68,000 lbs. of cargo

C-130 Hercules


With 60 years of continuous service, the Hercules is the current record holder for longevity of military aircraft. Variants of it can do almost anything, from transporting troops and weather air-to-air fighting serving as a mobile air hospital. While the military is in the process of coming up with a replacement that can carry more cargo, odds are that there will be C-130s flying in some capacity for at least a few more decades.

  • Crew: 5
  • Length: 97 feet 9 inches
  • Wingspan: 132 feet 7 inches
  • Maximum speed: 366 mph
  • Payload capacity:  45,000

C-5 Galaxy


One of the largest military aircraft ever built, the C-5 can carry a massive amount of cargo or personnel anywhere in the world (including Antarctica, where it makes supply runs). Known for its unique nose cone that swings up and open for easy access, it's already been in service for 46 years and is scheduled to remain in service until at least 2040. Fun fact: its cargo hold is a foot longer than the entire distance traveled by the Wright Brothers at Kitty Hawk during their first flight.

  • Crew: 7 typical; 4 minimum
  • Length: 247 feet, 1 inch
  • Wingspan: 222 feet, 9 inches
  • Max speed: 579 mph
  • Payload: 270,000 lbs.


C-17 Globemaster III


The C-17 is the newest aircraft on this list, being first delivered to the Air Force in 1995. It is a C-17 that accompanies the President on his visits both home and abroad, carrying the presidential limousine and other vehicles, and even the President himself on occasion (meaning the plane carrying him gets the call sign "Air Force One" during the flight). One of the most impressive things the C-17: it has set 33 different world records for flight, including the short takeoff and landing mark (it required only 1400 feet for both; most planes its size usually need 5,000 to 7,000 feet—or more) and the fastest climb to cruising altitude while fully loaded. 

  • Crew: 3: 2 pilots, 1 loadmaster
  • Length: 174 feet
  • Wingspan: 169.8 feet
  • Max speed: 515 mph
  • Payload: 170,900 lb


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