Military Factory logo

Douglas C-133 Cargomaster - United States, 1957

Detailing the development and operational history of the Douglas C-133 Cargomaster Heavy-Lift Military Transport Aircraft.

 Entry last updated on 2/10/2017; Authored by Staff Writer; Content ¬©

  Douglas C-133 Cargomaster  
Picture of Douglas C-133 Cargomaster
Picture of Douglas C-133 Cargomaster Picture of Douglas C-133 CargomasterPicture of Douglas C-133 CargomasterPicture of Douglas C-133 CargomasterPicture of Douglas C-133 Cargomaster

Before the arrival of the Lockheed C-5 Galaxy, no transport aircraft could match the hauling capabilities of the Douglas C-133 Cargomaster.

Since setting up shop in 1921, the Douglas Aircraft Company emerged as a major aircraft-maker prior to, and during, the World War 2 years (1939-1945). This continued into the Cold War period as the company put out more successful aircraft that included the A-1 "Skyraider" attacker, the A-4 "Skyhawk" navy fighter, and various impressive experimental / research types. Another part of the Douglas aircraft stable became the transport section where its DC-series shined during the Second World War. Douglas continued this tradition in the post-war period by selling the USAF on its C-133 "Cargomaster" turboprop-powered heavy hauler - 50 of the type were produced from the period spanning 1956 to 1961 and these served into the early 1970s.

The C-133 was born from a USAF requirement for a new strategic transport primarily intended for the heavy hauling role. The Douglas approach was to use a high-winged monoplane arrangement for strong inherent lift and to each wing would be fitted two engine nacelles. The tail was raised to allow access to the cargo hold aft and the general fuselage shape was rather simplistic - slim and rounded. The tail unit sported a large, high-reaching single vertical fin with low-mounted horizontal planes. A multi-wheeled tricycle was fitted for ground running and its short legs aided in access to the cargo hold. The flight deck sat at the extreme forward end of the aircraft, affording the pilots excellent vision over the short nose assembly which incorporated a noticeable protrusion.

Rather interestingly, no prototypes were ordered for the C-133 program and the type was quickly inducted into service through the C-133A production models. A first-flight of one of these was had on April 23rd, 1956 and service entry occurred as soon as August 1957. The complete production run of the C-133 was just fifty aircraft and the series was not exported to American allies. Thirty-five of the stock were C-133A production models and the remaining fifteen were made up of the follow-on C-133B.

C-133s operated during the Vietnam War (1955-1975) where their heavy haul expertise was put to the test (no other American transport could match its heavy-haul capabilities). The line was in constant use until it was succeeded by the mammoth Lockheed C-5 "Galaxy" jet-powered heavy transport. The C-5 was introduced in June of 1970 and the C-133 was out of service in 1971. During its time aloft, the C-133 managed several air records (both officially and unofficially) for aircraft of its class. Some after-service aircraft went on to see extended lives under the banners of the Cargomaster Corporation and the Foundation for Airborne Relief.

As completed, the C-133 featured a crew of six personnel consisting of two pilots, two flight engineers, a loadmaster, and a navigator. The fuselage measured 157.5 feet in length and the wingspan was 179.7 feet. The tail gave the large aircraft a reach up to 48.2 feet. Empty weight was 109,415lb against an MTOW of 286,000lb. Power was from 4 x Pratt & Whitney T34-P-9W turboprop engines delivering 7,500 horsepower each. This provided a maximum speed of 360 miles per hour with a cruise speed of 322 mph, a range out to 3,560 nautical miles, and a service ceiling up to 32,300 feet.

Douglas C-133B Specifications

Service Year: 1957
Type: Heavy-Lift Military Transport Aircraft
National Origin: United States
Manufacturer(s): Douglas Aircraft Company - USA
Total Production: 50

Structural (Crew, Dimensions, Weights)

Operating Crew (Typical): 6
Overall Length: 157.48 feet (48 meters)
Overall Width: 179.79 feet (54.80 meters)
Overall Height: 48.23 feet (14.70 meters)

Weight (Empty): 110,231 lb (50,000 kg)
Weight (MTOW): 275,578 lb (125,000 kg)

Power / Performance (Engine Type, Top Speed)

Engine: 4 x Pratt & Whitney T34-P-9W turboprop engines developing 7,500 horsepower.

Maximum Speed: 312 knots (359 mph; 578 kph)
Maximum Range: 3,564 nautical miles (4,101 miles; 6,600 km)
Service Ceiling: 32,152 feet (9,800 meters; 6.09 miles)

Armament / Mission Payload


Global Operators (Customers, Users)

United States (retired)

Model Variants

C-133A - Initial Production Model; 35 examples.
C-133B - Second batch production model; 15 examples.

Images Gallery


Douglas C-133 Cargomaster Cockpit