The base’s first C-141 Starlifter, the military jet specifically designed for airlift, arrived at Travis on April 23, 1965. It was nicknamed The Golden Bear and landed with Military Air Transport Service commander Gen. Howell Estes at the controls of the first operational C-141 to be assigned to an air base.
The Travis Heritage Center at Travis Air Force Base has in its collection the one-of-a-kind C-141B “GOLDEN BEAR,” 63-8088. Lockheed’s C-141 Starlifters joined the United States Air Force inventory in 1965 and with the C-5, durably formed the backbone of international military airlift for more than three decades. Among all aircraft, our GOLDEN BEAR is the most notable. It is located at the intersection of Burgan Boulevard and Travis Avenue.
It was the first operational C-141 and the first assigned to Travis.
The Lockheed GOLDEN BEAR was our first Starlifter to fly and land in Alaska, Hawaii, Japan, Okinawa and the Philippines.
It was the first C-141 to med-evac wounded Americans from Vietnam to the US, in this case flying them from Clark Air Base in the Philippines to Travis.
The GOLDEN BEAR was our first C-141 to fly into Saigon, initiating a mammoth shuttle service between Travis and Vietnam that lasted several years.
In addition, after the late 60s, the GOLDEN BEAR flew in support of every major military contingency and humanitarian operation in which Travis participated around the globe. These operations included military flights to Panama, Honduras, and Grenada and the airlift of relief to victims of natural disasters in Sudan, Ethiopia, and Mexico City.
In 1973, the California GOLDEN BEAR very significantly and safely brought home 566 military and 25 civilian prisoners of war from North Vietnam.
The GOLDEN BEAR had long been in storage at Travis and had suffered from exposure to the elements. The Travis Heritage Center and Jimmy Doolittle Air and Space Museum Education Foundation, with support from the 60th Air Mobility Wing Civil Engineers, restored this historic aircraft in 2005. The cost of restoration, and placement on exhibit of the original GOLDEN BEAR was funded by volunteer labor, corporate, individual and Jimmy Doolittle Air and Space Museum Education Foundation contributions. The 30-day project included repainting, movement of the aircraft and site preparation, such as lighting and landscaping.
More than 100 people were on hand for the ceremony to dedicate the newly restored C-141B, “Golden Bear,” on 16 September 2005, POW/MIA Day. The aircraft, now the best preserved C-141 in the Air Force as well as the most historic, rests next to the “Oath of Enlistment” wall at the intersection of Burgan Boulevard and Travis Avenue below the old hospital. Among the guest speakers for the ceremony were Mr. Dave Fleming, President of the Doolittle Air and Space Museum Foundation, Col. Regina Aune, who had been a flight nurse on C-141s, Lt. Col. Richard Brenneman, who was a POW in Vietnam, CMSgt Don Hume, who had served on the flight crews of C-141s, Col. Lyn Sherlock, Commander 60 AMW, and Brig. Gen Thomas Gisler, Commander 349th AMW who had flown the “Golden Bear.” At the end of the ceremony, there was a flyby of a C-5, KC-10, and C-141. The latter was on its way to the “boneyard” at Davis-Monthan AFB, AZ. As it slowly glided over the crowd gathered for the “Golden Bear” it wagged its wings in salute.
Official Designation: C-141B Starlifter
Primary Role: Strategic airlift
Secondary Role: Special operations, aeromedical evac
National Origin: USA
Original Contractor: Lockheed-Georgia Co.
Operator: United States Air Force
Wingspan: 160 feet (48.77m)
Length: 168 feet, 4 inches (51.3m)
Height at Tail: 39 feet, 7 inches (12.07m)
Length: 104 feet, 3 inches (31.76m);
Width: 10 feet, 3 inches (3.11m);
Height: 9 feet (2.74m)
Engines: Four Pratt & Whitney TF33-P-7 turbofans
Thrust: 21,000 pounds (94kN) per engine
Cruise Speed: 520 mph (837km/h; Mach 0.70)
Max Speed: 550 mph (885km/h; Mach 0.74)
Range: 5,550 nm (10,279km) without cargo; Unlimited with inflight refueling
Basic Crew: Six (pilot, co-pilot, two flight engineers, two loadmasters)
Date Deployed: October 1964 (C-141A);
December 1979 (C-141B)
Total in Service Less than 200 aircraft (retirement phaseout)
Information derived from “Travis Heritage Center” by Nick Veronico copyright Travis AFB Historical Society/Jimmy Doolittle Air and Space Museum Foundation. This book is available from the Jimmy Doolittle Air and Space Museum GIFT SHOP located in the Travis Heritage Center.