The Douglas C-124 Globemaster II was the primary heavy-lift transport aircraft of the United States Air Force in the late 1940s to the mid-1950s. Developed from a World War 2 design, the Douglas C-74 Globemaster, the Globemaster II incorporated lessons learnt from the Berlin Airlift where it was shown that the United States military needed a strategic airlift capability. With its four powerful engines and roomy fuselage and a lifting capacity of over 30 tonnes, it could transport entire tanks and other heavy equipment such as bulldozers or 200 fully equipped troops. The Globemaster II saw service during the Korean War and later in Vietnam where they were operated mostly by the U.S.A.F. Military Air Transport Service (later the Military Airlift Command) until being replaced in the 1970s by the C-141 Starlifter and C-5 Galaxy.
The Globemaster II and BigglesEdit
The Globemaster II was probably the largest aircraft Biggles encountered in all his adventures. In Biggles Makes Ends Meet, Biggles, Algy and Bertie are trapped on an island in the Nicobar group in the Indian Ocean being hunted by a smuggling gang led a U.S. Army deserter called "the Colonel". Just as the situation turns desperate, Ginger arrives with two Globemasters carrying a U.S. Air Force General Cotter and a detachment of U.S. Marines who proceed to mop up the gang and capture "the Colonel".
The number of marines being brought in was never mentioned but considering that two Globemasters were needed, it can be assumed that there must have been at least several hundred. The smuggling gang was well armed and eqiuipped, and quite likely the U.S. authorities wanted to take no chances.
Besides the C-124 Globemaster II, there is also its predecessor the C-74 Globemaster. Johns is not precise about which Globemaster he is referring to in his novel, however the circumstances point strongly to the C-124 Globemaster II. For one thing, only 14 of the earlier C-74s were built. Although they saw service during the Berlin Airlift in the late 1940s, and then during the Korean War, by the early 1950s, the fleet was running down because of the shortage of spares. By 1956, the C-74s were removed from the inventory of the U.S.A.F. Military Air Transport Service and placed in long-term storage. Writing his novel in 1957, it is likely that Johns would have been thinking of the more well-known successor, the C-124. Some 448 of these were built and the type was still in active service world-wide at the time Biggles Makes Ends Meet was written.
- Crew: five
- Length: 130 ft 5 in (39.76 m)
- Wingspan: 174 ft 11⁄2 in (53.09 m)
- Empty weight: 101,165 lb (45,984 kg)
- Loaded weight: 185,000 lb (84,090 kg)
- Max. takeoff weight: 194,500 lb (88,220 kg)
- Engines: 4 × Pratt & Whitney R-4360-63A "Wasp Major" radial engines, 3,800 hp (2,834 kW) each
- Maximum speed: 304 mph (489 km/h) at 20,800 ft (6,340 m)
- Cruise speed: 230 mph (370 km/h)
- Range: 6,820 miles (10,975 km)
- Service ceiling: 21,800 ft (6,645 m)
- Payload: 68,500 lb (31,100 kg) of cargo or 200 troops