In general, Douglas-built aircraft dominated the airplane ranks of U.S. Navy and Marine Corps transport squadrons, making the R4Y (redesignated C-131 in 1962) a virtual outsider when delivered in 1952 in the midst of the Korean War. The airplane was a military version of the Convair 340, which proved quite successful in the commercial field with sixteen American and foreign airlines placing orders for 160 production models in 1952 alone. A versatile platform, it could carry forty-four passengers in the transport configuration and also had a 27- bed capacity as an aerial ambulance. Some were adapted to serve as VIP aircraft. A total of 22 airplanes acquired by the U.S. Coast Guard, and modified for use as search and rescue platforms, replaced the venerable HU-16 Albatross seaplanes in that role. In addition to an array of improved avionics, these HC-131As featured a drop hatch, an underwater acoustic locator beacon, and two search observer positions in the fuselage.
All told, 36 R4Ys operated with the Navy, including one equipped with an extensive array of radar and electronic equipment (including radomes) for use as a countermeasures research and development aircraft.
Delivered as an R4Y-2 and redesignated C-131F in 1962, the museum's aircraft (Bureau Number 141015) spent its career serving as a transport. Its final flights occurred from Forrest Sherman Field at Naval Air Station (NAS) Pensacola, Florida, where it served as the flag transport for the Chief of Naval Air Training. During this time, the aircraft sometimes received nicknames based on the admiral it carried. To this end, “Heywagon” adorned its nose during the tenure of Vice Admiral Alexander Heyworth and it was called the “Streanliner” while Vice Admiral Bernard Strean served as Chief of Naval Air Training. The airplane remained operational until stricken from the Navy's inventory in 1981. Transferred to the museum the following year, it is currently on outdoor static display adjacent to the airfield from which it made many flights.
Manufacturer: Convair Division of General Dynamics Corporation
Dimensions: Length: 81 ft., 7 in.; Height 28 ft., 5 in.; Wingspan: 105 ft., 4 in.
Weights: Empty: 45,000 lb.; Gross: 53,200 lb.
Power Plant: Two 2,500 horsepower Pratt & Whitney R-2800-59W engines
Performance: Maximum Speed: 275 M.P.H.; Service Ceiling: 25,500 ft.; Range: 1,300 miles
Crew: Three to four