C-119 Airtanker Mysteries at Battle Mountain

Read about the mysteries of Tankers 134, 136 & 137


Statements:

  • 1: N5216R was Tanker 136 and is now preserved at Battle Mountain as T137; it was donated by H&P
  • 2: Tanker 137 was N3559 which is now preserved at Dover USAF Museum,DE without the jetpod and airtanker id
  • 3: T136 on display with Hawkins & Powers museum at Greybull is not N5216R, but is N3935
  • 4: an unidentified C-119 airtanker T134 crashed at Battle Mountain in August 1985
  • 5: T134 was used to restore T137 at Battle Mountain and the remains lie at a nearby junkyard
  • Question:

  • A: What is the identity of the C-119 wreckage in the junkyard; was this T134? Was this N8832?
  • To clarify:

    Confirmation of T134 being N8832 was sent by Walt Redmond and can be read below.

    Photoproof exists that underneath N5216R at Greybull sits tailnumber N3935. See tailnumber enlarged; this is from the page Greybull 1994. So of the two N5216R's (one at Greybull and one at Battle Mountain) the one at GEY is fake...

    The following are a few emails which led me further up the path of this mystery and they also produce a nice insight into the world of airtankers, C-119s in particular:

    "Sir,
    I flew Tanker 136 and also 137 for Hawkins and Powers.
    Tanker 136 is/was N5216R
    Tanker 137 is/was N3559
    On 18Aug85 I was flying T87 for Hemet Valley and based at Minden, Nevada.
    We were dispatched to Battle Mountain to cover a fire at the nearby mine, and were cautioned to be careful: "there may be aircraft wreckage on the runway, another C-119 had crashed on the airport."
    When we arrived we saw it, landed clear and after completing fire operations went to inspect the aircraft. I talked to the copilot and got an impromptu accident report from him.
    They had been dispatched from Alaska to Battle Mountain because of bad weather in Alaska and general inactivity. Alaska operations (cold weather) require different engine oil temperature control procedures. Temperatures at Battle Mountain could exceed 125 degrees "F"
    Climbing thru 2000 feet the crew noticed oil temps on both engines above red line, and pressure dropping. The captain feathered both engines, started a steep turn toward the airport, saw he was sinking too fast, tried to restart, never dumped his retardant load, forgot to put his landing gear down and hit in the center of the airport between the triangle runways on his belly with his retardant load still onboard.
    After completing fire operations I went to inspect the airplane, its back was broken, wing spar fractured, tail twisted, and I suspect never left the airport again. At least not flying.
    I hope this helps a bit."
    Jack Williamson

    Randy Sullivan wrote me (Jan.2015), many years later after this webpage was compiled:
    N5216R is/was T136 and N3935 is/was T139. I flew both of them and did much work tanking them.
    The data plates were probably changed during the Government deal, for the C-130 swap
    .
    I flew T136 to Alaska in 1975. During my many years at H&P 5216R was always T136.
    And I als
    o flew T139 in Alaska and it was N3935.
    Randy was chief pilot for H&P during 1975-1988 (and part time pilot 1988-1992).

    Here is a photo of Tanker 136 on Firepirates.com, in full action !

    Here is a photo taken by Jan Tuin at Battle Mountain in Sep.2000,
    "T137 N5216R"

    Click on the photo for a larger image

    Tanker 137 (N3559) was delivered to Dover AFB Museum in 1991 and flew in under own power...:
    Here's a look on their website: Air Mobility Command Museum, Dover AFB
    I was sent the following reply after I emailed them:
    Sir,
    Unfortunately the plane has been tied up in a court case since it was delivered. The case has recently been settled in court but we have not been given clear title to the plane at this time. Until the USAF Museum system owns the plane we cannot restore it. As for being airworthy, we inspected it when it landed in 1991 and due to the corrosion in the main wing beam we would have not called it airworthy even then.
    I have seen the serial number written several ways but all the official correspondence from the US Forest Service, where we acquired the plane lists it as 10-870. The RCAF serial number should read 22118, the 10870 is the contractors number, which should not technically have a -. Actually the plane is an F model that was brought up to G model standards.
    We have pictures of the plane when it was in service during the Suez crisis.
    The plane did not have a fuselage mounted jet when we acquired it but one was obviously mounted there at some point. We intend to replace the large bulbous nose radome with a more correct smaller radome and restore the plane in the markings of the 512th Airlift Wing (reserve) , which operated C-119s here on the east coast.
    Michael D. Leister
    Director, AMC Museum
    Dover AFB DE

    A recent shot provided by the museum (note the missing engine pod:)

    N3559

    Then a second C-119 at Battle Mountain surfaced:
    Sorry to cloud the issue further, but there is a second C-119 wreck in a junkyard on the road to the airport at Battle Mountain. Which is this one?

    Which was replied to as:
    The wreck in the junkyard was there when I visited in 1998. It had the RCAF cheatline and consisted of the fuselage "box." No wings or booms as I remember. As I recall the cockpit area had been cut away. William F Villani

    In Dec.2003 Larry Palazzo sent me a photo of Tanker 134 shortly after the crash:
    (c) L.Palazzo

    He wrote me:
    I was a mechanic for H&P from 1980 to 1985. I came across your site and was reading about C-119 tanker #134. I was there in Battle Mountain shortly after the rough landing to remove some of the props to use on another aircraft. I have a photo of T-134 with the boom broken off that I took while I was there. Not sure if you have cleared up the confusion yet, but 134 was the one that crashed in Aug 1985 at Battle Mountain, NV.
    I left H&P shortly after I returned from Battle Mountain and stripping the props off 134. I went to work for Northwest Airlines.

    For me this photo establishes it was Tanker 134 that crashed on 17Aug85 at Battle Mountain.

    Another contribution to the theory that the preserved C-119 at Battle Mountain is N5216R, is the following report by airtanker photographer Kit Robinson:
    "In may of 1992 I had photographed tanker#136 N5216R at Greybull, Wyoming with the jetpod number #136.
    I did not photograph Tanker #137 there or did I even see it there in 1992 and this makes sense as it was already at Dover,DE awaiting restoration.
    But in June of 1992 I again photographed N5216R and this time at Battle Mountain,NV with the jetpod from tanker #137. There was a crew from Hawkins&Powers there removing the engines and any other salvageable parts. N5216R I believe was ferried from Greybull to Battle Mountain in 1992 to help start a small aircraft museum there. The jetpod from #137 was used to help get the plane to Battle Mountain or was reinstalled by H&P crews after arrival to give it that final C-119 tanker look.
    As for the fuselage in the junkyard I can't find any records on a crash at Battle Mountain in August of 1985. I had photographed tanker #137 in 1983 at Stead,NV.
    #133 N383S (Crashed 06Jun79)
    #135 N48076 (Crashed 16Sep87)
    #136 N5216R
    #137 N3559
    #138 N8682 (Crashed 27Jun81) See crash N8682 Read more on the Legend of Dead Dugan !
    #139 N3935
    #140 N3560 (Crashed 10Jun78)
    #140 N809Z
    P.S. Did H&P operate a tanker #134?.Its the only number missing in the order of H&P C-119's. Could this be our bird?."
    Kit Robinson
    Firebomber Photography

    I replied to his message that according to JP Airline Fleets (1981) Tanker 134 was tailnumber N8832, which was still listed in the 1986 and 1989 editions. Larry Palazzo's photo proved the crashed was Tanker 134, unfortunately there is no tailnumber visible.

    Jim Tomlinson (Oct.2002) has this to say on it:
    "About the C119 wreck near the airport, it seems likely this was N8832/Tanker 134. I note this registration was cancelled by the FAA April 1991 as 'destroyed' along with N8682/Tanker 138 which crashed in '81."
    (In Feb.2014 I learned the remains of N8832/T134 were gone; to the smelter?)

    Kit Robinson came back to me with the following comparisons of the slides in his collection:
    "I had photographed tanker #136 (N5216R) in Greybull and Battle Mtn back in 1992. Both of these photos show the Hawkins&Powers logo under the pilots window. The main reason why I know N5216R is in Battle Mtn is that the lower fuselage is painted Red to help coverup the retardant stains after each drop.
    This is also featured in both of my photos.
    As for the picture of the tanker in Greybull's museum (also tanker #136) I feel that this is tanker #139 with the jetpod from #136 and the N-number changed to read N5216R. Here are my reason's:
    During my visit to Greybull in 1992 I photographed eleven(11) different C-119s.
    I also found a picture on the web taken two years after my visit of the C-119 in the Greybull museum and I compared my photos with this one and came up with: the logo (h&p) is located just behind the nose of the aircraft in both of my photo's, also the lower fuselage is painted silver (not red) in both photo's, but the biggest sign to me is the left tail and boom's paint was faded and the old Canadian flag patch could be seen thru the paint.
    The photo in 1994 also shows the fading on the boom and tail but much worse than my photo in 1992. Also just aft of the door on the left side the silver paint is faded in patches these to match up perfectly from my photo in 1992 and the photo taken in 1994.The n-number would also be easy to paint over as tanker#139 had the numbers painted red, not black. I also studied the pictures of tanker #140 (N809S) and in the photo the tail boom is faded and the H&P logo is in the same spot, but there is no faded flag spot on the left tail and there is no fuselage patch work or faded silver aft of the door.
    So my thinking is that the tanker in Battle Mountain is tanker #136 with the jetpod from #137 and the aircraft at Greybull is tanker #139 (N3935) with the jetpod from T136?.
    Kit Robinson

    By photoproof (found in Dec.2003 on one of my own slides, taken at GEY in 1994) we now know 'N5216R' T136 at GEY is in fact N3935 (T139). As illustrated above.

    Bas Stubert identified the construction number of the wrecked Battle Mountain C-119 in 1992:
    "When I was at Battle Mountain in July 1992 I logged the wreck as "C-119C 10914". This info came from a corroded c/n plate. C/n 10914 however is quoted as being a C-119F (51-8036), while c/n 10814 was a C-119C (51-8266)."

    Walt Redmond (USA MI) wrote me in Sep.2005:"I have been to Greybull 4 times - '79, '89, '98, and '99. I shot every large aircraft on the field during my '89 and '98 visits. In 1999 I only visited the museum area, plus Battle Mountain.
    I previously went to Battle Mountain NV in early September '85 to look over a wrecked H & P C-119, that Milo Peltzer had told me about. I took several slides of N8832 T#134, c/n 10907 exRCAF 22123. And yes, the hulk I saw in '99 west of the field was the remains of this same aircraft.
    Regards"
    Walt

    The jetpod of Tanker #139 was used for Lockheed P-2 N139HP (cn 762-7168); they really moved those pods around...

    There is also the following to consider:
    The website reports a crash of a H&P C-119 but has no tailnumber:
    160987, Fairchild C-119, Hawkins and Powers Aviation, Castle Crags State Park, 3/3 (fatalities).
    The Forest Service banned the use of C-119s, the Flying Boxcars, for firefighting in October 1987 after this crash (the second of H&P); both broke apart in mid-flight over northern California, killing three crew members.
    Here is a survey of Hawkins and Powers crashes
    Iain MacKay wrote me in Sep.2005: this is C-119G N48076, c/n 11005, ex 52-5846.. Thanks Iain !
    Castle Crags SP seems to often mispelled as Castle Craigs State Park. As it is on Joe Baugher's page
    Kit Robinson added the following: "Tanker #135 (N48076) was lost on September 16,1987 while fighting the 15 acre Wehelan Fire, five miles west of Castle Crags. Fire crews on the ground reported the C-119 going down at around 5:30 P.M. on that date. Tanker #135 was operating out of Redding,CA. The crew was as follows- Captain: William M.Berg, Co-Pilot:Charles W.Peterson, and mechanic Steven P. Harrell."

    While the next few emails have no bearing on the disclosure of identities, there are some interesting facts and expert opinions:
    A little background on the Canadian histories of these C-119s:
    "I was looking at your site on the C-119s. I flew on seven of the ones you have listed as an engineer. That was back in the late 50s and early 60s. There should be only one 06. The RCAF numbers ran from 22101 through 22135."
    Bill Reid

    The crew was made up of:. Pilot / copilot / radio operator / navagitor / flight engineer and loadmaster.
    Our squadron was a training squadron for all the aircrew. We were based at Trenton, Ontario. Our trips would be from Trenton to Winnipeg, Manitoba to Churchill, Manitoba to Resolute Bay, NWT to Thule, Greenland to Alert Bay, NWT.
    Then the same route back to Trenton. About a 5 day trip.
    We did this trip every 10 weeks. We would also do trips to Boston to Bermuda to Nassau for overwater navigation. The squadrons did all the resupply for the northern stations so a lot of arctic flying . Nos. 22101 . 22131 and 22134 were our regular aircraft for our sqd.
    Bill Reid

    In May 2015 I received following email:
    "I was there and witnessed the crash of T134.
    For some years in the late-1970's and early-1980's, I was the chief gofer for Hawkins and Powers. I flew to Battle Mountain with a radio technician, to work on the radios in 134. It was just taxying out for a for a fire drop when we arrived in our 210 (N1742X). T134 was en route to the drop that it ran into trouble and returned and crash landed."
    Mark


    Something more on N3559:
    "Quite a few ex-RCAF C-119s are in U.S. museums (and none are in Canadian museums, unfortunately).
    RCAF 22118, c/n 10870, was accepted by the USAF (USAF serial unknown) on 7 April 1953 and was received by the USAF on 15 April 1953. It was received by the RCAF as 22118 on 16 April 1953. It began as a C-119F and was later converted to a C-119G, the only difference being the propellers as far as I know.
    22118 was s/o/s on 25 August 1965 and went to CADC (Crown Assets Disposal Corporation, a federal government agency). It then went to Hawkins & Powers as N3559, tanker #137 (date unknown).
    (The above USAF and RCAF dates come from official records from both services.)
    Ownership was later transferred to the USAF Museum (which owns all aircraft in collections on USAF, AFRC, and ANG bases and some others as well), which then loaned it to the Dover AFB Museum in October 1991. There were a number of C-119s (and other types, IIRC) transferred to various museums that were later embroiled in court cases as noted below, so the above-mentioned transfer of ownership to the USAF Museum refers only to the previous owner's attempt to donate it, not the final disposition.
    Regarding the nose radome, 22188 was one the (all 35) RCAF C-119s fitted with an AN/APX-25A radar. At least three of these (but not 22118 as far as I know) had further mods and were used for EW training against ground radar stations (DEW Line, Pinetree Line, Mid-Canada Line) and aircraft (CF-100s and various USAF interceptors). The unit was initially known as 104 Communications Unit, then 104 Composite Unit, and later its EW training component became the Electronic Warfare Unit. A couple of years after the C-119s were retired, the EWU was reformed as 414 (EW) Squadron."
    Jeff Rankin-Lowe
    Author: "The Aircraft of the Canadian Armed Forces" (2nd edition in preparation)
    Author: "Golden Years: The Royal Canadian Air Force in the 1950s"
    Canada Correspondent: "International Air Power Review" (and formerly for "World Air Power Journal" and "Wings of Fame")
    Associate Air Force Historian: 1 Canadian Air Division HQ


    Craig C. Smith wrote me in Sep.2006 as he had been visiting Battle Mountain:
    C-119 and blue skies.."Attached please find some very recent photos of the above mentioned lost soul... I thought you might appreciate this update. We shot these (and of the other planes there) on our way back from the races in Reno." Tailnyumber N5216R

    Tanker 137 These photos clearly mark this C-119G as N5216R c/n 10956.


    Important question however: what happened to the remains of that crashed T134 (N8832), is it still at some nearby junkyard???
    For this see the photos Jesse Brinson made in 2005.
    (Note: In Feb.2014 I learned that the remains of N8832/T134 were gone; to the smelter?)

    Anno May 2010 it sits in the same position, see David Schmitt's photos on my 'Photos by Friends & Guests (25)'

    Hawkins and Powers insignia
    Firebomber insignia
    136 faded
    Serial no 10956
    C/n plate 10956
    Here are other photos of Craig's visit, to paint a clearer picture of what was to become Battle Mountain Air Museum...
    Craig also wrote: "...it doesn't appear to be being maintained at all. Was it ever a museum? I managed to squeeze between the end of the fence and the building to get in and make the shots. I flushed pigeons out of the C-119, went completely unremarked by the air field, for as far as I could tell."
    battle Mountain F-4
    31045
    F-4 Phantom
    T-33 and F-111
    T-33 serial
    F-111 tailnumber
    Sabre


    Log reports over a few years at Greybull, click here
    Photos of mine, made at Greybull, click here
    Background information on the C-119
    And 2 other mystery C-119s at Greybull on photo:
    "06" and another "06"
    2005 visit to Battle Mountain,NV with plenty of photographs, by Jesse Brinson
    Gateway to my C-119 pages



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    Last updated 7.12.2005