The Navy has a long tradition of procuring aircraft originally designed for marketing to commercial airlines to meet its logistics requirements. In 1972, seeking to replace its older, propeller-driven transports, the sea service sought a successful jet airliner capable of being configured for carrying both passengers and cargo. The aircraft chosen was the Douglas DC-9, which had made its maiden flight in 1965 and was procured by the Air Force as a medical airlift platform with the designation C-9A Nightingale. For its version the Navy opted for a new nickname, one that honored the venerable R4D/C-47 of an earlier time— the C-9B Skytrain II.
The Navy’s procurement totaled 29 airplanes, the first delivered in 1973. Many were bestowed with the names of cities, including “City of Pensacola” and “City of Alameda.” The airplanes featured supplementary fuel tanks that increased range as well as a cargo handling system that permitted the stowage of 8 pallets of military equipment. Devices on the wings that increased lift and an anti-skid system for the airplane’s brakes allowed for take-off from airfields of less than 7,000 ft. in length and landings in less than 2,500 ft. without reversing thrust on the engines.
Interestingly, at the time of procurement, there was also a proposal for the operation of the C-9B in the Carrier Onboard Delivery (COD) role with McDonnell-Douglas touting its ability to airlift two F-14 Tomcat engine. The use of the airplane on board ship, where it would have been recovered and launched at a weight of over 98,000 lb., never materialized.
The C-9B eventually equipped 14 Navy fleet logistics squadrons as well as Marine Transport Squadron (VMR) 1 at Marine Corps Air Station (MCAS) Cherry Point, North Carolina. During Operation Desert Storm, C-9Bs completed 700 missions transporting about 18,000 personnel and 3,750 tons of equipment, the latter including bombs and fuses for U.S. Air Force B-52 Stratofortress bombers. By the time of their retirement from Navy service in 2014, C-9Bs had logged 1.3 million accident-free flight hours. The airplane remains operational in VMR-1.
Purchased by the Navy in 1985, the Museum's aircraft (Bureau Number 163511) completed its service with Transport Squadron (VR) 46 in December 2001. Nicknamed the “City of Marietta,” the airplane was among the first to land in New York City following the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks against the World Trade Center.
Manufacturer: McDonnell Douglas Corporation
Dimensions: Length: 119 ft., 3 in.; Height 27 ft., 5 in.; Wingspan: 93 ft., 3 in.
Weights: Empty: 57,190 lb.; Gross: 108,000 lb.
Power Plant: Two 14,500 lb. static thrust Pratt & Whitney JT8D-9 turbofan engines
Performance: Maximum Speed: 576 M.P.H.; Service Ceiling: 37,000 ft.; Range: 2,280 miles
Crew: Pilot, co-pilot and crew chief, flight attendant and/or loadmaster
Load: 40 litter patients or four litters and 40 ambulatory patients or other combinations of personnel or 35,000 lb. of cargo