CIVIL HISTORY OVERVIEW
|Fairchild did attempt to sell an airliner version of the Packet after
World War II. The 1945
proposal was for a 45 seat passenger version with four abreast seating, lavatories could be
installed fore or aft of the cabin and the deck would be raised to provide underfloor baggage
storage. One sales pitch had a seven seat lounge bar / buffet installed in the nose section with
an unobstructed forward panoramic view of the surrounding countryside. Fairchild however,
failed to find any commercial operators. This was mainly due to the higher operating costs of
the C-82 which was roughly twice that of a C-47 Dakota – of which operators had a choice of
thousands second-hand along with an abundance of cheap spares to boot. A situation many
aircraft manufacturers found themselves in at the time, competing in a market flooded by
ex-military aircraft suitably designed for airliner applications.
The C-82A was finally retired by the USAF in 1954. Aircraft were parked up at Hill AFB, Utah,
Kelly AFB, Texas and Davis-Monthan AFB, Arizona where sales to civil operators began in May,
1955. Despite the costs of demilitarising these aircraft, approximately 50% of all the C-82 "A"
variant built were sold, the rest were broken up for scrap. In the civil world Packets saw service
as bulk cargo aircraft, specialised cargo carriers, crop-sprayers, flying repair stations, newspaper
transports, humanitarian relief, mail carriers and in one case several appeared as “film stars” in
a Hollywood motion picture. C-82s could be found from Alaska though to the US and on
into Latin and South America, a few operated in the Middle East and Europe under
L.B Smith Aircraft Corp. of Miami, Florida did several initial modifications stripping military
equipment out and installing civil equipment, reportedly somewhat improving the aircrafts
performance. From here they were then resold to operators in the US and Latin America.
The first airline service was in late 1955 with Guest Aerovias of Mexico.
The first civil Packets were with Mexican operator Guest Aerovias as cargo
transports, pictured is XA-LIK (s/n: 45-57758).
Photo: Adolfo Villasenor 1957.
|The most significant operator of the C-82 Packet by far was an
innovative company called
Steward-Davis Inc., located in Gardenia, California. Founded in 1946 by Herb Steward and
Stanley Davis, they specialised in radial engine reconditioning and various other aircraft
modifications / ventures.
The US Civil Aeronautics Authority (CAA); which became the Federal Aviation Agency
(FAA) in 1958 and then the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) in 1967; issued a
Limited Type Certificate for the Fairchild C-82. “Limited” means the aircraft was restricted
from fare paying passenger services and operating over congested / built up areas due to the
single-engine performance which had plagued the C-82 throughout its career.
Steward-Davis applied to the CAA, and was subsequently awarded, Limited Type Certificate
AR-15 on July 7, 1955. Herb Steward envisioned making the Packet a real winner by
installing a small dorsal auxiliary jet engine and hence overcoming the weight restrictions
and performance problems in US operations. They also held the only C-82 spares inventory
in the US for servicing and repairs to any C-82 in any part of the world.
Steward-Davis Jet-Packet 1600 (N6887C), demonstrating
the advantages of their jet-pak product.
|A holding company was created by Steward-Davis in 1961 called New
Frontier Airlift Corp.
of Phoenix, Arizona who began buying up C-82 Packets for conversion into Steward-Davis
Jet-Packet and Skytruck aircraft under a grand marketing scheme. Although the idea and the
market seemed promising (especially to Latin America), very few were converted in the end
and eventually by 1971 New Frontier had gone bankrupt having to scrap over 30 Packets
in Arizona and California. Ironically the Jet-Packet was a real winner flying superbly on one
engine and shortening take-off distances considerably - just to late to the market.
For the full Steward-Davis story see under Steward-Davis Jet-Packet in the side menu.
TWA operated C-82A N9701F, in Europe as a flying repair station. Pictured with
a Fairchild J44-R jet-pak it was later upgraded to Jet-Packet 3400A standards
featuring the Westinghouse J34-WE.
|Other significant C-82 buyers were Bankers Life & Casualty Co., who held
around 20 plus
surplus Packets and Los Angeles businessman Samuel C. Rudolph held a number of C-82s
purchased directly from the USAF for re-sale to civil operators.
A few of Samuel C. Rudolph's C-82 Packets in storage at Davis-Monthan AFB,
Tucson, Arizona circa 1955. The sales pitch boasted Mr. Rudolph's C-82s as
being the best available with recent military overhauls before retirement.
|Although there were many C-82 owners and operators throughout the US and
from the mid 1950s through to the mid 1970s, most enjoyed only a limited service life and
many merely ended their days parked up in the corners of airfields only to be later scrapped.
By the 1980s a few were still flying in Alaska and by the 1990s US company Hawkins &
Powers Aviation Inc. of Greybull, Wyoming operated the last flyable C-82A – N9701F. This
aircraft made the last ever Packet flight on October 15, 2006 when it was returned to it’s
birthplace at Hagerstown, Maryland for preservation at the Hagerstown Aviation Museum.
The last ever C-82 flight as N9701F arrives over Hagerstown,
Maryland on October 15, 2006.
Photo courtesy: Hagerstown Herald Newspaper.
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