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Wednesday, January 16, 2013

EC-121 Warning Star - Part 1

Years ago, I recall making an attempt to tell my college roommate's military officer father what plane my father flew on in Vietnam.  All that I could remember was that it was a "121" and it was a radar plane.  His rather insolent response back was that there was not such thing.  I attempted to explain to him that I was not clearly recalling the full title of the plane.  Soon after, I abandoned the conversation.

My next experience in working to remember the plane that my father flew on in the military was met with someone who knew what I was talking about.  While I had asked my father a few times what plane he few on during the Vietnam War, it was not always in the forefront of my mind.  The second instance was with a retired Air Force officer.  I was at work helping him as the customer.  Somehow the conversation went to his military service.  He had indicated that he'd flown out of McClellan AFB in Sacramento.  My father had too.  While he was in wars prior to Vietnam, he was definitely up to speed with the Air Force air crafts.

I made my best attempt at telling him the plane.  He came back with "The Connie".  I had not heard the plane called that before.  He said the EC-121 Super Constellation was made by Lockheed.  "That was it!"  I wholly agreed.  He told me a few of his stories and his own interests in these planes.  His recommendation to visit the museum at McClellan AFB was soon forgotten for a number of years after my conversation was over this with gentleman.  At least he knew what plane that I was talking about.

Now, before my father passed away in 2004, the topic of his Air Force days would come up here and there.  He was not inclined to chat about his military service unless it involved some funny stories outside of any missions.  I did get him to tell me more about the plane that he flew on.  Mind you, he was not the pilot, co-pilot, or the navigator.  He was, in fact, the non-pilot officer running the back of the plane.  That would be the radar portion.

The name given to the Air Force (and I suppose the counterpart in the Navy) was the EC-121 Warning Star.  This military version of the Lockheed Constellation was used from 1954 to 1978 as an early warning radar plane with 2 large radomes and 4 tubro supercharged radial engines.

At McClellan Air Field Museum c.2009 Zelsersk

Yes, I finally got to McClellan AFB (now an air field since it is no longer an active military installation) in 2009.  It took me long enough.  I only live about 5 miles from the base.  The museum was very interesting to say the least.