The C-9A Nightingale demonstrates its uniqueness and versatility daily by its
ability to serve not only military, but Department of Veterans Affairs and civilian hospitals
throughout the world, using military and commercial airfields. It is the only aircraft in the USAF
inventory specifically designed for the movement of litter and ambulatory patients.
Experience gained in the early stages of American involvement in the Vietnam War
highlighted the need for a medium-range aeromedical transport, and as a relatively low-cost
expedient, an initial order for eight 'off-the-shelf' commercial McDonnell Douglas DC-9 Series 30
airliners was placed to be set aside for military conversion. Modifications
included the provision of a special-care compartment, galleys and toilets fore and aft, and the
addition of a third access door 11 feet, 4 inches (3.45m) wide in the front fuselage with a built-in
hydraulic ramp to facilitate the loading of litters. Accommodation was provided for up to 40 litters
and 40 ambulatory patients, two nurses and three aeromedical attendants.
The first C-9A was rolled out on 17 June 1968 and delivered to Scott AFB two
months later; subsequent aircraft served with the 375th Aeromedical Airlift Wing of MAC (now
375th AW of AMC), and later with the 55th AAS of the 435th Tactical Airlift Wing (now 86th AW at
Ramstein). Later orders brought the total deliveries to 21, in addition to three
C-9C executive transports
flown by the 89th Military Airlift Wing at Andrews AFB, MD. In addition to these operators, the C-9
is flown by the 374th AW at Yokota, while the 73rd AAS is an Air Force Reserve Associate unit at
Scott, supplying aircrews to augment the active-duty crews.
This specialized aircraft incorporates:
- Ceiling receptacles for securing intravenous bottles.
- A special care area with a separate ventilation system for patients requiring isolation or intensive care.
- Eleven vacuum and therapeutic oxygen outlets, positioned in sidewall service panels at litter tier locations.
- A 28v DC outlet in the special care area.
- Twenty-two 115v AC-60 hertz electrical outlets located throughout the cabin permit the use of cardiac monitors, respirators, incubators and infusion pumps at any location within the cabin.
- A medical refrigerator for preserving whole blood and biological drugs.
- A medical supply work area with sink, medicine storage section and work table, fore-and-aft galleys and lavatories.
- Aft-facing commercial airline-type seats for ambulatory patients.
- A station for a medical crew director that includes a desk communication panel and a control panel to monitor cabin temperature, therapeutic oxygen and vacuum system.
- An auxiliary power unit that provides electrical power for uninterrupted cabin air conditioning, quick servicing during stops, and self-starting for the twin jet engines.
A subsequent version of the DC-9 was developed as the C-9B Skytrain II, ordered
by the U.S. Navy as a fleet logistic transport. Combining features of both the DC-9 Series 30 and 40,
a total of 19 aircraft were delivered to Navy logistic support squadrons in the U.S. and two
to the Marine Corps' Station Operations and Engineering Squadron at Cherry Point MCAS, NC. The
Navy subsequently purchased 10 similar DC-9-30s.
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