By Airman 1st Class C. Todd Lopez
DOVER AIR FORCE BASE, Del. (May 14, 1999) -- Nearly three decades ago, Senior Master Sgt. Hank Baker, a flight engineer, regularly flew in and out of Dover Air Force Base aboard a C-133 Cargomaster.
Baker has long since retired, and the C-133 was replaced by the C-5 back in 1971.
But with the help of some of his old C-133 crew members, the Air Mobility Command Museum, and a C-5 Galaxy, Baker plans on returning the C-133 to a permanent home at the Air Mobility Command Museum here.
"For me, this is the returning of an old friend," said Baker. "This is a challenge in my life that I want to have remembered in history."
The AMC Museum began looking for a C-133 for its displays nearly nine years ago, said Mike Leister, AMC Museum director.
The museum located a C-133 on display at the Strategic Air Command Museum in Nebraska. But the plane was inoperable, and the plane could not fly on its own into Dover.
"It is such a large plane, and it could not be transported over the road," said Leister. "But we found out that the C-133 could be dismantled."
According to Leister, the plan is to dismantle the plane and transport the pieces to Dover AFB inside a C-5 aircraft from Travis AFB in California.
"We figure it will take about three trips inside the C-5 aircraft," said Leister.
The Douglas C-133 Cargomaster, which made its debut at Dover AFB in August of 1958, is important to Dover AFB because it was the first aircraft designed to haul outsized cargo, specifically, Atlas Missiles. Its presence has contributed significantly to Dover's mission today.
"This airplane was instrumental in making Dover Air Force Base the hub of heavy Air Force," said Baker. "It demonstrated Dover's ability to support a heavy airlift style airplane. So when these airplanes were retired in 1971, it was natural to follow them with another heavy airlift aircraft, the C-5."
"Had it not been for the C-133 and the C-124 being stationed here and starting the heavy airlift, it is very unlikely the C-5 would have come here," added Tech. Sgt. (ret.) Bob Jones, a retired C-133 Loadmaster. "It may have gone elsewhere. And then it is likely that Dover Air Force Base might not be around!"
Plans to get the C-133 to the AMC Museum have come along nicely.
"We are at the point where we have contracted with the person who will take the aircraft apart and place it into the C-5. We've got the Air Force willing to supply the airplane, and Dover Air Force Base to supply the people to fly the C-5," said Baker.
According to Leister, the last hurdle is gathering funds to put the plane back together.
"We have enough funds to dismantle the plane," said Leister, "and we have the means to. get the plane to Dover Air Force Base, but we just don't have all the cash we need to put the plane back together."
While the C-133 Association is still trying to locate funds to reassemble their plane, their plans to get the plane back to Dover and put back together are undaunted.
"There is so much left to do, with the cost of equipment to reassemble the plane," said Jay Schmukler, C-133 Association president. "Fortunately we've had very generous people that have helped us so far. And when that plane arrives, we are going to put it into tip-top shape."
The return of the C-133 to the AMC Museum here will complete a sort of cycle at Dover AFB.
"A total of 50 C-133s were built," said Scmukler. "Dover received the first of those planes off the assembly line. The plane we are getting is the last production model C-133. Dover had the first, now we will have the last. In retrospect it is kind of unique."