Volunteers at the Atterbury-Bakalar Air Museum in Columbus, Indiana have just finished installing the outer wing panels on their recently-acquired Fairchild C-119 Flying Boxcar which they have position on display outside their main building at Columbus Municipal Airport. The iconic transport aircraft had a been part of the Hawkins & Powers firefighting fleet in Greybull, Wyoming for several decades until that company went out of business two decades ago. The Atterbury-Bakalar Air Museum purchased the plane for $15,000 in 2019, but the Flying Boxcar remained in storage at Greybull until last year when a transport crew took the massive aircraft apart, and loaded her components onto trucks for the 1,460 mile drive to Columbus. Museum volunteers worked to refurbish the airframe within a hangar at the airport, gradually re-assembling her over several months until the point where they were ready to move the aircraft out to her display position.
“Charlie 119 is a rescue mission to save one of the few remaining C-119s. This beautiful piece of historical significance still has so much still to give – you can help us save it from being sent to the scrap yard and destroyed! This aircraft display would be a great draw for the Atterbury-Bakalar Air Museum, the Columbus Municipal Airport, the City of Columbus, and south central Indiana.” a museum volunteer told us.
The Atterbury-Bakalar Air Museum is located just outside the boundary of Columbus Indiana Municipal Airport. Constructed during WWII, the airport started life as Atterbury Army Airfield, in memory of Brigadier General William Wallace Atterbury who played a significant role in organizing the railway logistics during WWI. Early on in WWII, the airfield served as a training base for transport aircraft like the Curtiss C-46 Commando and Douglas C-47 Skytrain and also for troop-carrier glider pilots. In September, 1943, the transport types moved out, and a unit with Martin B-26 Marauders began training at Atterbury for a period. By August, 1944, the airfield transitioned again, training African American crews on the North American B-25 Mitchell. The base went into mothballs following the war, but was reactivated in 1949, again for training C-47 crews. In 1954, the U.S. Air Force renamed the airfield Bakalar Air Force Base in honor of 1st Lt John Edmond Bakalar, an Indiana native who lost his life in a P-51D Mustang over France on September 1st, 1944. By 1957, the first C-119 units began to operate from Bakalar, a type which saw continual service from the site until the Air Force moved out for good in 1970. The airfield then reverted to civilian control, becoming Columbus Municipal Airport, and has continued to serve the region’s aviation needs ever since.
The particular Flying Boxcar was built in Hagerstown, Maryland as a C-119F for the Royal Canadian Air Force who assigned her the serial number 22106. During her RCAF career, the aircraft received an upgrade to C-119G status, before retiring from military service in 1967. She joined the U.S. civil registry as N3003 in 1970, operating with Carl Renstrom Enterprises out of Omaha, Nebraska until 1976 when Hawkins & Powers acquired her and moved the aircraft to Greybull. The aircraft was still in its cargo configuration at this point, and went into storage for a period before Hawkins & Powers began operating her as a fire bomber. Her last known flight was in 1990. Following Hawkins & Powers collapse in the early 2000s, the airframe passed through several additional owners, but never left Greybull until after the Atterbury-Bakalar Air Museum acquired her. Given the strong connection of the type to Columbus Municipal Airport, it will be a wonderful addition to local heritage to have the aircraft on display!
The Atterbury-Bakalar Air Museum is dedicated to the memory of all military and civilian personnel who served in any capacity in the wars and conflicts from 1942 to 1970. It serves to recall events of WWII, as well as the Korean, Cuban, and Vietnam conflicts which touched many of our lives. Depending on the donation amount, donors qualify for a commemorative brick to be added to the display site where the C-119 Flying Boxcar will be displayed. For more information visit www.atterburybakalarairmuseum.org