This month’s Friday 5 features aircraft that started off as civilian airplanes but were pressed into military service. From big to small, just about anything that flies has at least been considered by one branch of the service or another.
- The T-41 Mescalero: How do you make a Cessna 172 sound really cool? Call it a T-41! That’s right, even the venerable Skyhawk has been used by the military. With a more powerful 210hp engine and a constant speed prop, the T-41 is certainly an upgrading version of the Cessna we all know and love. Eventually phased in favor of more modern aircraft, the Air Force Academy still operates at least 4 T-41s.
2) C-47: When you think of World War II era aircraft, chances are you picture a fighter like the P-51 or Corsair. Maybe you think of a legendary bomber like the B-17 or B-29. Yet, when asked what the largest factors were in the allied victory in WWII, Dwight Eisenhower included the C-47 in his list. A militarized version of the DC-3, the C-47 enabled the rapid deployment of supplies and troops right to, and even behind enemy lines.
3) VC-25: You’ve certainly heard of Air Force One but the iconic Boeing 747 is officially designated as the VC-25. It only becomes “Air Force One” when the President is on board. In fact, any Air Force plane that carries the President is referred to as Air Force One for that flight It could also be a 757 or Gulfstream. The Air Force currently operates two VC-25s.
P-8 Poseidon: One of the newest additions to the US Navy, the P-8 is a Boeing 737-800ERX built to detect and battle submarines. The P-8 replaces the P-3 Orion, which has been in service since 1962. The cost of each P-8? $125,000,000.
5) L-4 Grasshopper: Imagine entering into the Army Air Corps during WWII with dreams of racing across the sky in a fighter…only to get assigned to fly a green painted J-3 Cub designated an L-4. Your mission? Fly low and slow over enemy lines looking for the enemy, delivering supplies or retrieving wounded soldiers. Most of the tales of aerial valor we read about during WWII take place over 10,000 feet, but the L-4 reminds us that valor could also be found just above the treetops.