The United States Air Force’s C-135 family of transport aircraft is descended from the revolutionary Boeing 367-80. The “Dash 80,” with its swept wings and four jet engines in pods under the wings, was also the prototype of the first American jet airliner, the Boeing 707.
Between 1956 and 1965, Boeing produced over 800 C-135 aircraft. The most common variant was the KC-135 “Stratotanker,” with 732 accepted by the USAF. Many KC/C-135 aircraft were modified to fulfill a variety of missions.
The aircraft on display, 61-0327, was delivered to the USAF in November 1961 as a C-135A “Stratolifter.” In 1966 the aircraft was converted into an EC-135N Apollo/Range Instrumentation Aircraft (A/RIA), complete with a large “Snoopy Nose” or “Droop Snoot” that contained a steerable seven-foot antenna dish. Eight A/RIA became operational in January 1968 and provided telemetry and communications support to the Apollo space missions. After Apollo ended in 1972, the USAF changed the name to Advanced Range Instrumentation Aircraft (ARIA).
61-0327’s “Snoopy Nose” was removed in the mid-1980s, but the aircraft retained an extensive communications system. In 1987, 61-0327 came to the 19th Air Refueling Wing (later Group) at Robins AFB, Georgia, where it joined an EC-135Y Stratotanker, 55-3125, as a special mission support aircraft. The two aircraft were dedicated airborne command posts for the Commander-in-Chief (CINC), United States Central Command (USCENTCOM). In 1997, the aircraft were transferred to Headquarters USCENTCOM at MacDill AFB, Florida. 55-3125 was retired in 1999 but 61-0327 continued serving CINCs until 2003 when it was retired for display at the Museum of Aviation.
Span: 130 ft. 10 in.
Length: 136 ft. 3 in.
Height: 41 ft. 8 in.
Weight: 300,000 lbs. loaded
Engines: Four Pratt & Whitney J57 turbojet engines of 13,750 lbs. thrust each with water injection
Crew: Four (plus 80 troops)
Serial Number: 61-0327
Maximum speed: 606 mph.
Cruising speed: 512 mph.
Range: 8,673 miles
Service ceiling: 50,000 ft.