Looking back: Thousands on hand to witness turnover of ‘Starlifter’ to USAF

  • Published
  • Tinker History Office

On Oct. 19, 1964, some 3,000 people were on hand at Tinker Air Force Base to witness the turnover of the first C-141A all-cargo jet plane to the U.S. Air Force. The aircraft was being assigned to Tinker because it was the home station of the 1707th Air Transport Wing. The 1707th was the Military Air Transport Service unit that would train all crew positions for the C-141 fleet.

The new “Starlifter” arrived from Dobbins AFB, Georgia, at 11:15 a.m., piloted by Maj. Gen. Charles H. Terhune Jr., who was the commander of the Air Force Systems Command’s Aeronautical Systems Division.

General Terhune taxied the aircraft up to the podium and waiting crowd. He presented Gen. Howell M. Estes Jr., the MATS commander, with a model of the plane to symbolize turning the C-141 over to the training wing.

Called the “Spirit of Oklahoma City,” the new cargo aircraft could cruise at 550 miles per hour and carry a load weighing 35 tons, 4,163 miles non-stop.

As the speeches ended, a second “Starlifter” arrived from Edwards AFB, California, fully loaded. It too taxied up near the podium, so everyone could witness unloading and loading techniques.

Later, a 1741st Air Transport Squadron crew headed by Capt. Ronald D. Holly made the first C-141 takeoff from Tinker on a demonstration flight.

Civic and military leaders in attendance included: Brockway McMillan, undersecretary of the Air Force; Lt. Gen. Thomas P. Gerrity, deputy Air Force Chief of Staff for Systems and Logistics; Maj. Gen. Melvin F. McNickle, Oklahoma City Air Materiel Area commander; Col. Emil G. Beaudry, 1707th ATW commander; Sen. A.S. “Mike” Monroney; Gov. Henry Bellmon; Rep. Tom Steed; Oklahoma City Mayor George Shirk William V. Montin, president of the Chamber of Commerce; and Stanley Draper.