***image1***The last remaining Nightingale in active-duty Air Force received a red-carpet farewell when Ramstein leaders said goodbye Tuesday as it departed the airfield here, bound for Andrews Air Force Base, Md.
The final C-9A, assigned to the 76th Airlift Squadron, was flown to its new and final resting place at the air museum there.
This C-9A Nightingale is a modified DC-9 that entered service in 1971 as an aero-medical aircraft. In the mid-to-late 1970s, its mission changed as it became the aircraft for the Supreme Allied Commander. Finally, in the late 1990s, it was transferred to the Ramstein as an operational support airlift aircraft.
The C-9 airframe in line for retirement since 2003, was finally retired this year for several reasons, of them being, its short-range capability – 2,000 nautical miles, or approx imately five hours, and the fact that its specifications no longer meet the standards for noise restrictions necessary to operate in and out of many airports.
Nightingale pilot, Maj. Darren Young, 76 AS C-9A Standards and Evaluation, said that there is no replacement for this aircraft as he boasted of its reliability and the quick rate in which it can be returned to operation after flying a mission.
“It’s an older aircraft but very reliable – we’ve only had one mission in over two years where it was unable to get the distinguished visitor to his intended destination,” he said. “Its primary advantage was its ability to rapidly turn on the ground. We can turn in 20 to 30 minutes compared to other aircraft that require up to an hour or more.”
The configuration of the 34-year-old aircraft was suitable for special distinguished missions to remote locations. It has a DV compartment, which provided distinguished passengers complete privacy. It had a large cargo-carrying capacity that allowed transport of humanitarian aid supplies, along with bags for up to 31 passengers. It also allowed the crew to carry all of the supplies to operate extended missions in places like Africa.
The exodus of this aircraft stirred up memories as it has flown a host of high-profiled, distinguished personnel to high-profiled engagements worldwide.
The most high-profile, but most memorable missions for Major Young was a trip transporting First Lady Laura Bush as she toured European hospitals and multiple trips to Africa carrying a host of distinguished visitors to include the Business Executives for National Security.
“Africa is a unique mission in the fact that it is still a remote location and the area is an extremely challenging environment to operate in – lack of Navigation aid, poor runways, poor security, poor communications and lack of radar environment,” he said.
The aircraft’s last mission supported Ambassador Victoria J. Nuland, Senior U.S. Ambassador to NATO on a trip from Brussels, Belgium to Berlin, Germany where she attended informal meetings of NATO defense ministers.
The aircraft and its distinguished mission – transport high-ranking government and Department of Defense officials for special air missions throughout the world; particularly the European theater and Africa – will be missed by many.
“Tail 876 afforded the 76 AS an exceptional platform to provide our distinguished passengers an ‘office in the sky’ to stay connected while traveling comfortably worldwide and especially throughout Africa,” said Lt. Col. Vincent Jovene, 76th AS commander. “It will truly be missed.”