A History of Boeing YC-97A 45-59595, during the Berlin Airlift:
Our Boeing C-97G, the "Angel of Deliverance", represents the only C-97 used
during the great Berlin Airlift of 1948 and 1949 and is painted in a similar
livery as YC-97A, 45-59595, was in May of 1949 when it flew in the Airlift. When
Boeing received the order to build the C-97, the first order was issued on
January 23rd, 1943, for three test aircraft designated XC-97. Soon after testing
commenced, Boeing received a second order for ten more aircraft of which six
were designated YC-97, three were designated YC-97A, and the last was a YC-97B.
Of the three designated YC-97A, all three were delivered to the US Air Force in
March of 1948. The last of the three YC-97A's was identified as 45-59595. It was
assigned to the 1st Strategic Support Squadron and was sent to Germany to
participate in the Berlin Airlift where it was evaluated and tested by Boeing
and the US Air Force under actual Airlift conditions.
It arrived at Rhein-Main, Germany, on
May 2nd, 1949, along with one SAC aircrew, seven maintenance personnel, and over
ten tons of specialized parts. Later,
additional maintenance personnel and enough people to make up three full crews
arrived. Service tests of the YC-97A
proved somewhat anticlimactic. Initial
assessment of the aircraft showed several problems, including the length of the
fuselage, which caused both fatigue and confusion for loaders, and the
difference in height between trucks and the aircraft’s deck, which necessitated
borrowing a conveyor belt from a German company.
The Stratofreighter flew twenty three missions, delivering 444.8 tons of
cargo to Berlin. It also experienced problems.
On May 24, engine problems forced the YC-97A to make an emergency landing
in Berlin during which the giant aircraft blew four tires and caused enough
damage to close Gatow’s runway for over seven hours.
The plane remained at the British base until three new engines arrived on
June 17, after which it returned to the United States.
The use of both the YC-97A and one C-74 proved the heavy lift concept to
the US Air Force, which prompted the development of larger, better heavy lift