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CONVAIR C-131 / R4Y Samaritan

MEDEVAC / VIP Transport / Trainer Platform


The CONVAIR twin-engine C-131 aircraft was utilized by both the United States Air Force and United States Navy after its arrival in 1950.

Detailing the development and operational history of the CONVAIR C-131 / R4Y Samaritan MEDEVAC / VIP Transport / Trainer Platform.  Entry last updated on 4/22/2016. Authored by Staff Writer. Content ©
CONVAIR introduced its CV-240 passenger airliner in 1947 with American Airlines and production of this aircraft eventually reached 1,181 units up until 1954. In time, the company was able to sell a modified transport line of this same product to the US military which took them under the designation of C-131 "Samaritan". The new transport was introduced in 1950 and managed a healthy production total of 512 units before being retired in 1990. It went on to serve the United States Air Force (USAF), United States Navy (USN) and United States Coast Guard (USCG) as well as a single example sent to the Paraguayan Air Force. The CV-340 was another related CONVAIR airliner model which influenced some of the later Samaritan variants. These featured a lengthened fuselage, wider wings and improved-power radial engines.

The C-131 was a highly conventional aircraft for the period, featuring a pair of leading edge engine nacelles along slightly-swept, low-mounted main wing appendages. The fuselage was tubular with a forward-set cockpit aft of a short nose assembly. The fuselage then tapered somewhat to form the empennage to which a large-area vertical tail fin was affixed. Low-set horizontal planes completed the tail unit. Windows dotted the sides of the passenger cabin. The aircraft sat atop a wheeled tricycle arrangement, a departure from the "tail dragger" designs of previous years. The main legs, held under the engine nacelles, utilized two wheels as did the nose leg held under the cockpit floor. This configuration gave the Samaritan a pronounced stance and allowed for proper clearance of the large, spinning propeller blades at each engine. A typical crew numbered four with passenger seating able to total some 48 persons. Power was served through 2 x Pratt & Whitney R-2800-99 "Double Wasp" radial pistol engines of 2,500 horsepower each and driving three-bladed propeller assemblies. This provided a maximum speed of 295 miles per hour with a cruising speed closer to 255 miles per hour. Range was listed at 450 miles with a service ceiling of 24,500 feet and rate-of-climb of 1,400 feet per second.

The C-131 was first delivered to the USAF in 1954 and followed the similar T-29 "Flying Classroom" training platforms which had already operated since 1949. Flying Classrooms were used to train navigator crew, bombardiers and radar operators in the finer points of their craft while in an active aerial setting. The C-131, on the other hand, was utilized by the USAF as a MEDEVAC platform capable of hauling patient litters and medical staff. When appropriately modified with seating, it also served as a general passenger hauler. Four C-131s served (temporarily) in the VIP transport role under the designation of VC-131H. Other C-131 airframes were used in evaluation roles/conversion programs to fulfill roles such as fixed-wing gunship testing, photo-reconnaissance, electronics training and the like.

Notable variants of the entire C-131 line including the C-131A, C-131B, C-131D, C-131F, T-29A, T-29C and T-29D. C-131A models were passenger haulers based on the CONVAIR CV-240 with seating for thirty-nine and 26 units built in all. The C-131B followed suit and added elements of the succeeding CV-340 model and with seating for forty-eight across 36 total examples manufactured. The C-131D was a militarized CV-340 with seating for forty-four and 33 were produced. The C-131F was the USN R4Y-1 (C-131A) under a new designation. The T-29A was the initial trainer model with an unpressurized cabin and workstations for fourteen students - some 46 airframes being produced. The T-29C followed the T-29B with its pressurized cabin and powered by 2 x Pratt & Whitney R-2800-29W series radials of 2,500 horsepower. 119 examples were produced of this type. The T-29D served as a bombardier training platform based on the T-29C with workstations for six. 93 were produced.

The USAF and USN both used the C-131 and T-29 variants (original USN C-131s were known as "R4Y"). Ultimately, ex-USN units made their way into the USCG inventory when twenty-two of the type were transferred under the HC-131A designation for Search And Rescue (SAR) duty. These were painted in the usual USCG red and white scheme. In USAF operations, the C-131 was eventually given up for the more modern, jet-powered McDonnell Douglas C-9 "Nightingale" (essentially converted DC-9 airliners).

Despite their age, several C-131s and T29s have been preserved in indoor and outdoor museums across the United States.


YEAR: 1950
LENGTH: 79.07 ft (24.1 m)
WIDTH: 105.31 ft (32.1 m)
HEIGHT: 28.08 ft (8.56 m)
EMPTY WEIGHT: 25,441 lb (11,540 kg)
MTOW: 46,998 lb (21,318 kg)
POWER: 2 x Pratt & Whitney R-2800-99W Double Wasp 18-cylinder air-cooled radial piston engines developing 2,100 horsepower each.
SPEED: 293 mph (471 kph; 254 kts)
CEILING: 45,997 feet (14,020 m; 8.71 miles)
RANGE: 1,650 miles (2,655 km; 1,434 nm)
RATE-OF-CLIMB: 1,520 ft/min (463 m/min)
OPERATORS: Paraguay; United States

Variants / Models

• C-131 "Samaritan" - Base Series Designation
• C-131A - Initial passenger transport model for USAF; 26 examples.
• MC-131A - MEDEVAC C-131A up to 1962
• VC-131 - VIP C-131A up to 1962
• C-131B - Based on CV-240/CV-340 with increased seating capacity; 36 examples produced.
• JC-131B - Missile Tracking Platform based on the C-131B model; six converted as such.
• NC-131B - C-131B used for testing
• VC-131B - C-131B staff transport
• YC-131C - Testbed CV-340 models with Allison 501D-13 series engines.
• C-131D - CV-340 model with seating for 44; 33 examples completed.
• VC-131D - C-131D as staff transport
• C-131E - SAC electronic countermeasures platform; 15 examples with two USN transfers and single C-131D model conversion.
• TC-131E - Redesignation of C-131E
• C-131F - Redesignation of USN R4Y-1
• RC-131F - Six C-131F models converted to photo-reconnaissance platforms.
• VC-131F - Redesignation of R4YZ
• C-131G - Redesignation of R4Y-2
• EC-131G - Single conversion of C-131G for electronics training.
• RC-131G - Single C-131G modified for airways observation.
• VC-131G - Staff transport version of C-131G
• C-131H - Conversions of some C-131s with turboprop engines and CV-540 model standards.
• NC-131H - Single conversion for in-flight simulation training.
• R4Y-1 - USN CV-340 models; 36 produced
• R4Y-1Z - USN staff transport
• R4Y-2 - USN C-131E models
• R4T-2Q - Proposed radar countermeasures platform based on R4Y-2 models.
• R4Y-2S - Proposed ASW trainer
• XT-29 - Proposed trainer based on CV-240 for USAF
• T-29A - Flying Classroom; unpressurized cabin
• VT-29A - Staff transport
• T-29B - Flying Classroom; pressurized cabin
• NT-29B - Single testbed model
• VT-29B - Staff transport
• T-29C - Fitted with 2 x Pratt & Whitney R-2800-29W model engines; 119 examples.
• AT-29C - T-29C for airways observation
• ET-29C - Redesignated AT-29C
• VT-29C - T-29C staff transport
• T-29D - Bombardier training platform; 93 examples.
• ET-29D - Airways observation platform based on T-29D.
• VT-29D - Staff transport
• XT-29E - Proposed turboprop model of the T-29B
• YT-32- Proposed bomber crew training platform
• HC-131A - USCG SAR model; 22 examples

Our Data Modules allow for quick visual reference when comparing a single entry against contemporary designs. Areas covered include general ratings, speed assessments, and relative ranges based on distances between major cities.

Image of collection of graph types

Relative Maximum Speed
Hi: 300mph
Lo: 150mph
This entry's maximum listed speed (293mph).

Graph average of 225 miles-per-hour.
City-to-City Ranges
Graph showcases the CONVAIR CV-240 Samaritan's operational range (on internal fuel) when compared to distances between major cities.
Aviation Era
Pie graph section
Pie graph section
Pie graph section
Pie graph section
Pie graph section
Useful in showcasing the era cross-over of particular aircraft/aerospace designs.
Unit Production (512)
Comm. Market HI*: 44,000 units
Military Market HI**: 36,183 units

  * Commercial Market High belongs to Cessna 172.

  ** Military Market High belongs to Ilyushin Il-2.

Altitude Visualization
Small airplane graphic
Supported Roles
Ground Attack
Aerial Tanker
A2A=Air-to-Air; UAV=Unmanned; CAS=Close Support; ASW=Anti-Submarine; AEW=Airborne Early Warning; MEDEVAC=Medical Evac; EW=Electronic Warfare; SAR=Search-Rescue
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* Ribbons not necessarily indicative of actual historical campaign ribbons. Ribbons are clickable to their respective campaigns/operations.

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