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Old Shakey — Douglas’s C-124 Globemaster II

6 September 2013

Old Shakey — Douglas’s C-124 Globemaster II

C-124 — photo by Joseph May

The Douglas C-124 Globemaster II had clamshell doors in the nose and folding, though steep, ramp leading into a cavernous interior for the time (the two panels running along the overhead lights in the fuselage could be lowered like bunk beds to form an upper deck to carry troops above the cargo on the main deck) — photo by Joseph May

The Douglas C-124 Globemaster II is the progeny of the limited production Douglas C-74 Globemaster which was born of the need to transport heavy equipment as well as large troop numbers across the Pacific Ocean during World War II. The end of the war meant that fewer than 20 of the original Globemasters were built and these were quickly overtaken by the Globemaster II with the opening of the Cold War and its requirements for transporting armored vehicles, missiles, radar equipment and aircraft quite far as well as quite quickly. The C-124 shared the same wing, engines and tail with the C-74 but the fuselage of the C-124 is obviously quite larger and in all dimensions. The cross-section of the fuselage is also squarish making for a more usable cargo volume than the conventional circular cross-section of the day. Interestingly, access into each wing was possible through tunnels entered below the cargo floor to service the engines as needed. The C-124’s propeller diameter required a high ground clearance — as opposed to today’s high wing jet powered cargo aircraft — so the design for loading and unloading in the field was challenging. Douglas met the challenge in two ways. First, and most obvious, are the characteristic clamshell cargo doors in the nose from which — once opened — a folding ramp would be deployed. The ramp is quite steep at 17º for cargo or vehicle loading or unloading and this presented its own challenges. Second, and less obvious, was an elevator positioned in the cargo bay and behind the wing root where a section of the cargo deck could serve as an elevator platform being lowered with the use of the internal overhead-mounted hoist — or it could be lowered and removed leaving the hoist to be used more freely. The cargo bay is uninterrupted since the flight deck is above the cargo deck but a second deck could be unfolded from the interior walls of the fuselage to carry light cargo or troops. A dedicated troop carrying mission could transport as many as 200 infantry with their gear per flight. Known as “Old Shakey” — due to the symphony of shakes, groans and vibrations produced while in flight — the C-124 was not without its problems or incidents but undeniably carried cargo more inexpensively per air mile than preceding aircraft and just when the U.S. Air Force needed it most.

C-124 — USAF photo

The Douglas C-124 Globemaster II sans weather radome — USAF photo

C-124 — USAF photo

Cockpit of the C-124 — USAF photo

C-124 — USAF photo

Flight Engineer’s panel in the C-124 — USAF photo

C-124 — photo by Joseph May

The immensity of the C-124 Globemaster II can be seen on exhibit in the National Museum of the U.S. Air Force (note the black weather radome jutting out from the nose) — photo by Joseph May

The National Museum of the U.S. Air Force provides this fact sheet with several images.

3 Comments leave one →
  1. Larry champion permalink
    6 September 2013 05:10

    Ah, memories…I have thousands of hours logged as Navigator on Old Shaky.

  2. Ben Hanlon permalink
    28 September 2017 16:07

    What ever happened to the 52 crew members when the plane went down in the ocean and were never found? Including navigator Karl Armstrong.


  1. Old Shakey walkaround — Douglas C-124 Globemaster II, first of three | Travel for Aircraft

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