One of the US Air Force’s first C-21A aircraft landed at the National Museum of the US Air Force in Dayton, Ohio yesterday. The Learjet C-21A was the military version of the popular Learjet 35A civilian business jet that was produced from the mid 70s to 1994. An off-the-shelf variant of the civilian model, the C-21A had a capacity for eight passengers and 3,000 pounds of cargo, and the small size of the aircraft allowed quick and cost effective travel for VIPs and theater commanders as well as being used for medical evacuations.
Delivery of the C-21 fleet to the US Air Force began in April 1984 and was completed in October 1985. This particular C-21A (S/N 84-0064) was one of the first three of more than 80 aircraft delivered to the US Air Force. It deployed to Southwest Asia in support of both Gulf Wars and the War in Afghanistan. During the First Gulf War, C-21s delivered the Air Tasking Orders to units lacking the ability to receive these daily orders electronically. This aircraft was last assigned operationally to the North Dakota Air National Guard.
Colonel Kent Olson, commander of the 119th Wing, North Dakota Air National Guard, piloted the aircraft during its final flight to the museum and Colonel Brad Derrig, vice commander of the 119th Wing, was the co-pilot. The flight also marked the end of an era as it was the last manned flight for the North Dakota Air National Guard, nicknamed the “Happy Hooligans.” The unit, which is among the most awarded units in the air force, with 15 outstanding unit awards. No organization has won more. In what is likely a foreshadowing of what is to come, the 119th is now an unmanned and drone unit.
Honored by the selection of their plane to be preserved for posterity, Olsen stated: “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, 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.”
For the museum’s part, the acquisition of the C-21 gives them the opportunity to show the diversity of the air force’s airlift mission. Lieutenant General (Ret.) Jack Hudson, the museum’s director says: “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 aircraft will initially be displayed at the end of the museum’s Southeast Asia War Gallery. More information about the aircraft is available at HERE.