The Brussels Air & Space Museum is restoring a Fairchild C-119 “Flying Boxcar”

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Aviation24.be and RateOne.be were invited to visit a nice restoration project initiated by AELR, the association of friends of the Air & Space Museum, led by its President Philippe Doppagne. For those who wonder what the initials stand for: musée de l’Air et de l’Espace – Lucht- en Ruimtevaartmuseum.

The Air Hall of the Royal Army Museum

The aim of AELR is to contribute to the development of the Air and Space section of the Royal Army Museum, in cooperation with the War Heritage Institute. This goal is achieved through three main functions:

  • Scientific research
  • Acquisition and conservation of collections
  • Publications, conferences exhibitions

The idea of the C-119 project is to make an area available for the visiting of a completely restored Fairchild C-119 “Flying Boxcar”. This transport aircraft was a staple of the Belgian Air Force between 1952 and 1973 (when it was replaced by the Lockheed C-130). It was used for the transport of troops, especially paratroops, and heavy equipment, and for humanitarian missions. It participated in the evacuation of Belgians from the Congo after its independence in 1960.

The C-119 registered OT-CBP with paratroops

The Belgian Air Force had up to 40 C-119s. After their retirement in 1973, they were all flown to Coxyde Air Base to be dismantled, and only two of them remain: one was transported in separate parts to Melsbroek in the Dakota museum of the 15 Wing, and the other one to the Air Hall of the Royal Army Museum in Brussels.

However, these aircraft were in a poor condition. The interior may currently not be visited for safety and preservation reasons, but our team was exceptionally authorised to enter the aircraft. The AELR project, with the support of the War Heritage Institute, consists of the installation of a special space enabling a visit of the aircraft under comfortable conditions, with an area for the exhibition of photographs, models and special items related to the C-119.

The C-119 registered OT-CEH in the Air Hall of the Royal Army Museum

All this work is done by volunteers with a long experience in the restoration of ancient aircraft, with the help of specialised companies for more technical tasks in order to achieve a solution that safeguards the work in the long term.

The budget for all that work is 27,600 euros. AELR is calling on gifts to make the area visitable by the end of 2018. The King Baudouin Foundation has supported the initiative so that gifts of at least €40 are tax-deductible. All gifts can be made on bank account IBAN BE10 0000 0000 0404 BIC BPOTBEB1 with the communication 158/2982/00054

We had a visit of the aircraft under the guidance of AELR President Philippe Doppagne and Project leader, retired Aviation Colonel Lionel Gabriel. Here are a few pictures, either provided from the Museum or made by myself.

Interior of the C-119. View to the back, with the red-green light authorising paratroops to jump
The cockpit (no access) with room for four
C-119 engine
One of the 2 doors in the back for paratroop jumps
The whole back section (between the two doors) can be opened
An urgent need? That’s the toilet! (Men only, no door…)
Our two guides: left Colonel Lionel Gabriel, right Philippe Doppagne

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

© Royal Army Museum and André Orban

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