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C-131 Samaritan

The T-29/C-131 series of aircraft was one of the military's many cost saving examples for its utility and transport needs.

The C-131, which served as flying ambulances, could accommodate four crew members and up to 48 passengers. At the start of the Korean War, the Army and Air Force still had not reached agreement on a division of aeromedical responsibilities. By December 1951, however, the Army and the Marines, with approval of Air Force Headquarters, assumed primary responsibility for forward medical evacuation. The Army and Marines soon acquired their own helicopters for that purpose. In December 1953, however, the Air Force was given responsibility for organizing and staffing aeromedical staging facilities, even in forward areas. The medically designed C-131 Samaritan joined the Air Force's aeromedical fleet in 1954.

The C-131 Samaritan entered the Coast Guard during the 1970's, and Air Station Corpus Christi Retired the last Coast Guard C-131 in early 1983. Nearly all of the USAF's C-131s left the active inventory in the late 1970s, but a few were still serving in Air National Guard units in the mid-1980s. Aircraft that have been assigned to the Peoria Air Guard include the C-131E Samaritan, from June 1975 to May 1989.

Many C-131s were put into service as VC-131 staff transports. The 99th Military Airlift Squadron was officially organized at Andrews Air Force Base, Maryland on 08 January 1966. The mission was to "provide safe, reliable, and efficient transportation for the President and Vice President of the United States, Members of the Cabinet, Members of Congress, the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and other high ranking domestic and foreign dignitaries." The squadron was assigned six VC-140, five C-140, four VC-131 (Convair 580), four U-4, and one VC-6 aircraft. By October of 1969, all U-4 aircraft had been assigned to other units. The first three VC-131 aircraft were later transferred to another unit by 1977.

The NC-131H Total In-Flight Simulator (TIFS) is a modified C-131 transport (Convair 580 turboprop airliner). Operated by the Air Vehicles Directorate at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, it was modified into an in-flight simulator in the late 1960s. TIFS uses a model-following flight control system that controls all aerodynamics control surfaces plus the throttles to achieve independent control of aircraft motions in all six degrees of freedom. Modifications included the addition of a separate evaluation cockpit, side-force surfaces, direct-lift flaps, computer-controlled hydraulic actuators on all control surfaces, and turboprop engines. The aerodynamics and control systems of any aircraft can be programmed on the TIFS' digital computers to produce the proper model responses at the evaluation cockpit.

The TIFS has simulated a wide variety of aircraft, including the B-1, B-2, Space Shuttle, X-29, YF-23, C-130, C-141, and airliners such as the Boeing 7J7, Douglas MD-12X, and Nusantara N250. TIFS also performs generic research and development in the areas of flying/handling qualities, flight control development, and display/human factors. Another TIFS capability allows student test pilots to be instructed in avionics systems test techniques. To perform this mission, the evaluation cockpit is removed and replaced with an interchangeable avionics nose and a modular crew station in the main cabin with seating for two students and an instructor. The avionics suite includes air-to-air/air-to-ground radar, infrared seeker, electro/optical seeker, inertial, low-frequency radio, and global positioning navigation systems. TIFS also can be used in this configuration for avionics system testing.

Most recently, TIFS has been involved in NASA research to develop a cost-effective next-generation supersonic transport. The simulation nose was rebuilt to make room for radar and a large video display. In this configuration, TIFS will allow pilots to evaluate landing a supersonic transport without any forward visibility. The Convair was extensively modified to accommodate the test flights, receiving a new cockpit canopy and nose cap; instrument panel; side and center consoles; rudder pedal and throttle feel systems; and various sensors, displays and instrumentation, including a Silicon Graphics computer and high-definition TV camera and displays.

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