Matt D
Topic Author
Posts: 8907
Joined: Fri Nov 19, 1999 6:00 am

Why Wasn't The C-141 Ever An Airliner?

Thu Dec 30, 1999 7:34 am

Can anyone tell me why Lockheed never offered the C-141 in a Commercial Airliner version? I read somewhere that back in the early '70's, they actually considered doing that. It is a fine tactical military transport, and I would think it would have offered some good competition to the 747 when it first came out.
Can anyone shed some light or comment on this?
Posts: 1038
Joined: Wed Nov 24, 1999 3:26 am

RE: Why Wasn't The C-141 Ever An Airliner?

Thu Dec 30, 1999 7:42 am

Hi Matt,

I read somewhere as well that pilots hate to fly them and that they stink (of fuel?). In the air force I guess you just have to fly them; in airline use, maybe the pilots would have just changed jobs!

Behind every "no" is a "yes"
UPS Pilot
Posts: 866
Joined: Tue May 18, 1999 1:17 pm

RE: Why Wasn't The C-141 Ever An Airliner?

Thu Dec 30, 1999 7:58 am

I can't speak of the C-141. The C-17 is one incredible aircraft. It's like the F-15 of transports. I would really welcome this in commercial or cargo use. I know that MD was marketing it under the MD-17 but I never saw anything about it since.
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Joined: Wed Nov 24, 1999 3:26 am

RE: Why Wasn't The C-141 Ever An Airliner?

Thu Dec 30, 1999 8:40 am

I checked my files and note that Lockheed had the Starlifter tested and certificated to meet the FAA's standards for civil airline operations. While I do not think that they had passenger operation in mind in the short term, the fact that it offered easier loading and unloading than its 707 and DC-8 rivals meant that Lockheed could offer the Starlifter to civil cargo operators as a serious alternative to Boeing and Douglas.

Incidentally a civil version was ordered by Slick Airways, but they were absorbed by Airlift International and the order was cancelled, probably because the 707's and DC-8's offered a far superior payload, not to mention cheaper operating costs.

The civil-registered Starlifter was transferred to NASA, where it served as a flying laboratory.

So, by deduction, it would appear that the Starlifter was expensive to operate, while its competitors could lift a 50% greater payload. In service, however, it was discovered that the Starlifter's hold was full before the weight limit had been reached and this led to a fuselage stretch with plugs inserted fore and aft of the wing and thus the C-141B was born in 1977. All pre-'77 aircraft were then up-graded to 'B' specifications.

By then the Boeing 747 had been in airline operation for 7 years and Lockeed had long since introduced the Tristar and therein lies your answer. There was simply no need for it.

Behind every "no" is a "yes"

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