Saving a Piece of a Cargomaster, Flight Engineer Panel Restored
While rummaging through the storage areas of the Travis Heritage Center, I came across the flight engineer panel from a C-133 Cargomaster aircraft. The extra panel must have come from one of the C-133s that were scrapped and arrived with other spare parts when the last flyable C-133 made its last flight to Travis AFB in 2008.
The C-133 "Cargomaster" was built by the Douglas Aircraft Company and made its first flight on 23 April, 1956. Douglas designed the C-133 to meet the USAF's Logistic Carrier Support System requirements for transport of strategic missiles. Production ended in 1961 with only 35 C-133A's and 15 C-133B models. Its service life with the USAF lasted until the early 1970s until it was replaced by the C-5. Of the 50 Cargomasters produced, ten crashed (20%).
The C-133 flight engineer's control panel was very complicated with numerous gauges and switches required for the four engine turo-prop and its cargo deck management. The panel was missing numerous switches, lights, hardware and instruments. Another volunteer at the museum built the wood box for it. The panel required a month to disassembly, paint and rebuild. One of the hardest things was finding all the missing hardware and parts. There are lots of little things in the panel that required attention to detail. It was a labor of love bringing the panel back it its original condition.
The restored panel is now mounted to a wall inside the Travis Heritage Center in the Flight Engineer Display area. The flight engineer panel display is dedicated to all the flight engineers who were crucial to mission success.
Aviation Archaeology can be about finding aviation artifacts long forgotten in storage and bringing them back to life for all to see and enjoy.
P.S. I will continue to try and identify which aircraft the panel is from after publication of this article.