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Thu, Jun 15, 2023

Thunderpig Inbound to Oshkosh

The last flying Fairchild C-123 Provider has RSVP’d to AirVenture! 

The last of its kind will be making an appearance at this year’s EAA AirVenture in Oshkosh, Wisconsin, with ‘Thunderpig’ making the trek from its home at the Air heritage Museum in Pennsylvania in commemoration of its Vietnam service.

The C-123 Provider was built in 1956 before being tendered to the US Air Force, where it served as a cargo and troop transport through the 70s. Thunderpig was later found in its retirement, sleeping in an aircraft boneyard in Arizona in the late 1990s. It was handed over to the Air Heritage Museum’s restoration people to be brought back to life, restored to the same livery it sported throughout its time in the service. ‘Thunderpig’ was taken from a named aircraft used by the nearby 911th Airlift Wing based at the Greater Pittsburgh Airport. 

The aircraft has its roots in a postwar ‘assault glider’ designed by Chase Aircraft, the XG-20. The idea was the largest glider ever made in the USA, but quickly fell afoul of the relative inutility of an unpowered aircraft. Despite its lack of propulsion, Chase found the basic design quite competent, deciding to add the missing ingredient in the form of 2 radial engines. While piston engines ultimately became the norm for the adopted C-123 Provider, some experimentation with early J-47 jet engines provided some much-needed education during the early years of the jet age. Produced by Fairchild after some contractor issues with Chase, the Provider went on to a fairly successful career with the USAF, Coast Guard, and foreign militaries around the globe, with the last of the type being retired in Royal Thai Air Force in 1995. Like many utilitarian, unarmed military aircraft, most Providers lived a very hard life, made somewhat worse due to its innate STOL performance. Ultimately, few of the type have been able to retire successfully into airworthy civilian service: Thunderpig remains the sole example of the breed that can still take to the skies. 

Thunderpig will be exhibited as part of the EAA’s “Vietnam Remembered - 50 Years Later” at AirVenture.



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