The world's largest land plane, the XC-99, made its first flight in San Diego on 23 November 1947. The aircraft was capable of carrying 400 fully equipped troops or 100,000 pounds of cargo. The B-36's performance figures were impressive from the very beginning, and 10-engine juggernaut seemed to be an ideal structure for further development. Early on, Convair had modified a B-36 with a gigantic two-level fuselage to create the world's largest cargo plane, and the resulting XC-99 had been tested at Muroc in 1949.
No building at Consolidated Vultee was high enough to house the giant plane with its main landing wheels installed, or wide enough to house it with outer wing panels in place. About 30 feet of the aft fuselage protruded from Convair's experimental building because the tail surfaces stick into the sky 57.5 feet, several feet higher than the experimental building.
A transport version of the Convair's B-36 bomber, the double-decked XC-99 could carry 400 troops, or 335 litter patients, or 100,000 pounds of cargo. Like the B-36, it is powered by six 3,000-hp pusher-type engines turning 19-foot reversible-pitch propellers. The huge transport has a maximum range with reduced loads of more than 8,000 miles. Flights of this distance will call for a five-man crew and an equal number of relief crew members. Design gross weight of the XC-99 is 265,000 pounds. Its wingspan is 230 feet and its length, 182.5 feet.
Delivered to the Air Force on November 23, 1949, the XC-99 was retired in 1957. Following its retirement, the XC-99 was on public display at Kelly Air Force Base near San Antonio, Texas until 1993. Initially, because it could not be put in private hands, it was donated to the organization of Disabled American Veterans. Kelly AFB with the help of the Texas Historical Commission, is working to get the XC-99 listed on the National Register as a historic structure. Restoration of the aircraft is planned once listed.
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