By Sarah Swan, National Museum of the U.S. Air Force
One of the U.S. Air Force’s first C-21A landed at the National Museum of the U.S. Air Force today at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base in Dayton, Ohio.
The Learjet C-21A, a twin-engine jet, was the military version of the Learjet 35A business aircraft. It provided airlift for eight passengers and more than 3,000 pounds of cargo, and it could transport one litter patient or five ambulatory patients during aeromedical evacuations. The small size of the aircraft allowed quick and cost-effective travel.
“The addition of the C-21 gives us the opportunity to better interpret the diversity of the Air Force’s airlift mission,” said retired Lt. Gen. Jack Hudson, museum director. “The popular airlift image is heavy-lift large cargo aircraft, like the C-5 or C-17, but the C-21 represents the other end of the mission spectrum. We’re excited to see this C-21 starting a new career at the National Museum of the U.S. Air Force.”
The C-21A was one of the first three of more than 80 aircraft delivered to the Air Force. It deployed to Southwest Asia in support of Operations Desert Shield, Desert Storm, Iraqi Freedom and Enduring Freedom. During Operations Desert Shield and Desert Storm, C-21s delivered the Air Tasking Orders to units lacking the ability to receive these daily orders electronically. The Learjet was last assigned operationally to the North Dakota Air National Guard.
Col. Kent Olson, commander of the 119th Wing, North Dakota Air National Guard, piloted the aircraft during its final flight. Col. Brad Derrig, vice commander of the 119th Wing, was the co-pilot, and Lt. Col. Jerrad Krapp, commander of the 177th Airlift Squadron, also was on board. It was a bittersweet moment for the crew, as it was the last manned flight for the North Dakota Air National Guard, nicknamed the “Happy Hooligans.”
According to Olson, during more than 66 years of flying missions, the unit has earned awards and distinctions that set it above all other Air National Guard units. It’s an honor, he said, to have this aircraft, and their part of its legacy, on display at the museum.
“It’s only appropriate that the last C-21 flight from our base will be a first for the National Museum of the Air Force as it expands its collection to include this airframe,” Olson said. “Since beginning our C-21 mission in 2007, our maintainers have kept the aircraft in the best condition imaginable as our pilots logged more Joint Operational Support Airlift Center missions and flying hours with it than other units around the country.”
The aircraft will be initially displayed at the end of the museum’s Southeast Asia War Gallery this fall.
Photo by Don Popp, U.S. Air Force