1950: The Maiden Flight of the Unconventional XC-120 Packplane

August 11, 1950

The Fairchild XC-120 Packplane, one of the more unconventional types of aircraft created in the United States in the post-World War II era, first took to the skies. The XC-120 was built for the U.S. Air Force by the aircraft and aerospace manufacturer Fairchild, and that transport plane made its maiden flight from the company’s airport in Hagerstown, Maryland. This test flight lasted 45 minutes.

The idea for the XC-120 was developed by Fairfield engineer Armand J.  Thieblot, and what set apart the all-metal, twin-engine XC-120 from other planes were the detachable cargo pods that could be installed below its fuselage and used in place of an internal freight compartment. The XC-120, in other words, was designed to serve as an airborne tractor-trailer able to both pick up and deliver cargo-filled pods in an expeditious manner. 

In its account of the plane’s first trial run, the Associated Press (AP) reported that “the XC-120 can land, drop off its cargo-carrying ‘pod’ and leave it for ground crews to unload and reload as time conditions permit.” The AP story also noted, “From a logistical standpoint, that will save precious time, provide greater mobility and reduce potential loss under enemy attack.”

Following its first flight, the XC-120 continued to be tested extensively and even appeared at a number of airshows throughout the early 1950s. It was ultimately decided not to produce any more of those planes, however, and the only prototype of the XC-120 to be built was scrapped.

Photo Credit: Public Domain

For more information on the Fairchild XC-120 Packplane, please check out https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fairchild_XC-120_Packplane

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