Midway’s Doomed C-117

US Navy C-117 at Midway Island - 1977

Who that were at Midway in the 1970’s remembers the C-117? I used to love that plane but in hindsight it was a doomed aircraft.

It was Midway’s aerial bus and pickup truck, you might say. It was used to haul personnel and supplies to and from Midway via Honolulu between the regular visits of the C-141 Air Force Log Flights. It used to make regular flights to resupply and transfer Coast Guard personnel to and from the even more remote and much smaller Kure Island, the location of a huge Loran tower.

On one particular day I remember taking off from Midway to head to Honolulu for Christmas leave with a full plane, passengers and luggage. We got about 20 minutes out from Midway when all of sudden the port side of the aircraft was smeared with oil and then soon after the engine was shut down.

For those who know this aircraft they will realize that there are only two engines, and with one not operating, and a full load, we weren’t going to make it to Honolulu.

The plane took a sharp about face and headed back to the island. My roommate was the flight engineer and as he walked past me, from the cockpit to the rear of the aircraft, I could see the look of worry in his eyes. He was preparing for a water landing. Fortunately we made it back but in conversation afterward with my roommate it was clear that if we had been much further away from the island we would have had to ditch the plane.

When the island was phased down in 1978 the aircraft was sent to Guam. Not long afterward the aircraft was ditched in the ocean and two people were killed. This article explains a few of the details of that terrible day.

Today this aircraft sits at the bottom of the ocean.

US Navy C-117 Crash at Guam - 1978
US Navy C-117 Crash at Guam – 1978