An air power ‘look back’

Dr. Marshall Michel
86th Airlift Wing Historian

***image1***In 1950, the Air Force was pushing hard to improve its airlift capability despite a limited budget. One unique experiment was the Fairchild XC-120 Pack Plane, a modification of the Air Force’s standard transport, the C-119, to carry a detachable pod under the fuselage for rapid load/unload of various equipment modules.

The detachable pod was expected to cut the weight and equipment required on the aircraft since each type of pod would carry its own mission-essential equipment. The main body could be used in carrying passengers or paratroops, with the ‘’pod’’ devoted to self-contained field stations such as a machine shop, radar van, or field hospital.

While the idea was a good one, especially looking at it in light of today’s modular equipment transportation, it seems to have been too radical for the time and the Air Force’s limited budget. Only one XC-120 was built, but it remains an intriguing idea that is reflected in modern “roll on, roll off” self contained pallets.