C-9 Nightingale/Skytrain II
A C-9B Skytrain II of the US Navy
Role Military transport aircraft
National origin United States
Manufacturer McDonnell Douglas
Introduction 1968
Retired September 2005 (USAF C-9A);
July 2014 (USN C-9B);
April 2017 (USMC C-9B)
Status On display
Primary users United States Air Force (historical)
United States Navy (historical)
United States Marine Corps (historical)
Kuwait Air Force (historical)
Number built 48
Developed from McDonnell Douglas DC-9

The McDonnell Douglas C-9 is a retired military version of the McDonnell Douglas DC-9 airliner. It was produced as the C-9A Nightingale for the United States Air Force, and the C-9B Skytrain II for the U.S. Navy and Marine Corps. The final flight of the C-9A Nightingale was in September 2005,[1] and the C-9C was retired in September 2011. The U.S. Navy retired its last C-9B in July 2014.[2] The two remaining C-9s in Marine service were retired in April 2017.[3]

Despite being officially retired, one C-9B, BuNo 161529, was seen as late as November 2020 being operated by the U.S. Air Force as an experimental sensor testbed. [4]

Design and development

In 1966, the U.S. Air Force identified a need for an aeromedical transport aircraft and ordered C-9A Nightingale aircraft the following year. Deliveries began in 1968.[5] The U.S. Air Force received 21 C-9A aircraft from 1968 to 1969.[6] The C-9As were used for medical evacuation, passenger transportation, and special missions from 1968 to 2005. The C-9A were named for English social reformer Florence Nightingale (1820–1910), the founder of modern nursing.[7]

A C-9B Skytrain II offloading on the ramp at Naval Air Station Brunswick.

After selecting a modified DC-9 for passenger and cargo transport, the U.S. Navy ordered its first five C-9Bs, bureau numbers 159030 thru 159034. However, since the Air Force was responsible for moving military personnel from place to place in the early 1970s under the Military Airlift Command, this order was canceled.[citation needed]

The Navy documented to Congress that their people were being given last seating on Air Force flights.[citation needed] Congress authorized the Navy to fly its own passenger/cargo jets shortly thereafter. The Navy ordered eight aircraft, bureau numbers 159113 thru 159120. The first four went to VR-30 at NAS Alameda in California for west coast logistical support while the second four went to VR-1 at Norfolk in Virginia for east coast support. An additional six aircraft, bureau numbers 160046 through 160051[citation needed] were delivered to the Navy and the Marine Corps in 1976 with the first two aircraft being delivered to the Marine Corps at MCAS Cherry Point, the second two delivered to VR-1 at NAS Norfolk and the last two delivered to VR-30 at NAS Alameda. An additional ten more new and ten used DC-9s were purchased and converted to C-9B for the Navy. The last C-9B to fly for the Navy was retired on 28 June 2014.[8]

Many of the Navy's C-9Bs had a higher maximum gross take-off weight of 110,000 lb (50,000 kg). Auxiliary fuel tanks were installed in the lower cargo hold to augment the aircraft's range to nearly 2,600 nautical miles (4,800 km) for overseas missions, along with the addition of tail mounted infrared scramblers to counter heat seeking missile threats in hostile environments.[citation needed]

Operational history

NASA 932 reduced-gravity aircraft during parabolic flight

The C-9B aircraft have provided cargo and passenger transportation as well as forward deployed air logistics support for the Navy and Marine Corps. (The original "Skytrain" was the World War II era C-47 developed from the civilian DC-3.) A C-9B was also chosen by NASA for reduced gravity research,[9] replacing the aging KC-135 Vomit Comet.[10]

The C-9B squadron (VR) were located throughout the continental U.S., with detachments operated in Europe, and Asia.[11]



A US Air Force McDonnell Douglas VC-9C (DC-9-32), used often as Air Force Two or to transport first ladies
 United States

Specifications (C-9B)

The cockpit of a C-9B Skytrain

Data from Encyclopedia of World Air Power[5]

General characteristics



Aircraft on display

See also

Related development

Aircraft of comparable role, configuration, and era

Related lists


  1. ^ "Historic C-9 heads to Andrews for retirement". US Air Force, 24 September 2005.
  2. ^ Rogoway, Tyler (19 July 2014). "The US Navy Finally Retires The C-9B Skytrain II After 41 Years".
  3. ^ "SEAPOWER Magazine Online". Archived from the original on 2018-12-16. Retrieved 2018-12-15.
  4. ^ Trevithick, Joseph (2021-08-03). "Retired Marine C-9B Jet Transport Is Getting Second Life As An Air Force Sensor Testbed". The Drive. Retrieved 2022-07-18.
  5. ^ a b Gunston, Bill, ed. The Encyclopedia of World Air Power. New York, NY: Crescent Books, 1986. ISBN 0-517-49969-X.
  6. ^ a b Birtles, Philip. Douglas DC-9, pp. 109, 116–120, Airlife Publishing, 2002. ISBN 1-84037-318-0.
  7. ^ McEntee, Marni (August 5, 2003). "Air Force retiring Nightingale fleet". Stars and Stripes. Retrieved June 20, 2014.
  8. ^ "Navy says farewell to the C-9 Skytrain II aircraft". navair.navy.mil. Archived from the original on 2018-09-16. Retrieved 2018-09-16.
  9. ^ The History of C-9B Reduced Gravity Research Program Archived 2009-12-15 at the Wayback Machine. NASA/JSC, March 25, 2008
  10. ^ "Zero-Gravity Plane on Final Flight". Retrieved 2021-04-28.
  11. ^ C-9 Skytrain fact file. US Navy, 15 April 2005.
  12. ^ a b c Becher, Thomas. Douglas Twinjets, DC-9, MD-90, MD-90 and Boeing 717, pp. 170–176, Crowood Press, Aviation Series, 2002. ISBN 1-86126-446-1.
  13. ^ Lednicer, David. "The Incomplete Guide to Airfoil Usage". m-selig.ae.illinois.edu. Retrieved 16 April 2019.
  14. ^ "Archived copy" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on 2015-02-26. Retrieved 2015-08-14.((cite web)): CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link) Drummer, Janene L. and Wilcoxson, Kathryn A. "Chronological History of the C-9A Nightingale." March 2001. Retrieved July 9, 2015.
  15. ^ "Tour Air Force One". www.castleairmuseum.org. Retrieved 2017-11-24.