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Hanoi Taxi is a Lockheed C-141 that became famous for bringing back the first returned prisoners of war in Operation Homecoming.
The C-141 Starlifter was the US Air Force’s first major jet aircraft designed to meet military standards as a troop and cargo carrier. Lockheed (now Lockheed Martin) built a total of 285 C-141s, and for more than 40 years, C-141s performed numerous airlift missions for the USAF. With its great range and high speed, the Starlifter projected American military power and humanitarian efforts rapidly across the globe.
Although the C-141s had flown many military and humanitarian missions, none was more significant than the mission flown by the Hanoi Taxi. This C-141 (serial number 66-0177) airlifted the first American prisoners of war to freedom from Gia Lam Airport in Hanoi, North Vietnam, on Feb. 12, 1973.
The Hanoi Taxi flew two missions into Hanoi, carrying out 78 POWs and two civilian returnees to the Philippines, and four missions from the Philippines to the United States, carrying 76 ex-POWs. Arizona Senator John McCain was one of the POWs who flew home on the Hanoi Taxi. Signatures of the freed prisoners have been preserved on the panel over the years and are the centerpiece of what is essentially a "flying museum".
Afterward, the Hanoi Taxi continued flying missions around the world for three more decades and logged more than 40,000 flying hours.
In 2002 the Hanoi Taxi repainted as it appeared when it went to Hanoi in 1973 -- except for the Red Cross which was used to show it was carrying hospital patients. The Hanoi Taxi flew in these markings for the next four years instead of the standard paint scheme in recognition of its important history.
Following the restoration of the aircraft, it was first exhibited to the public at the 2003 Dayton Air Show.
In May 2004 the Hanoi Taxi again tapped the timelines of history when Maj. Gen. Edward J. Mechenbier, himself a POW repatriated from Vietnam, flew it back to Vietnam to repatriate the remains of two American service members killed in action.
On Saturday, 6 May 2006, the Hanoi Taxi touched down for the last time and was received in a formal retirement ceremony at the National Museum of the United States Air Force. The aircraft was displayed outside in the museum's Air Park for several years.
In December 2015 the aircraft was moved into the fourth building at the museum. The new hangar opened to the public in May 2016, and the Hanoi Taxi is now on permanent display in the Global Reach Gallery. Visitors to the museum are able to walk inside the cargo bay of the aircraft through a rear ramp door.