About the time I was getting my drivers permit, the Boeing YC-14 made its first flight. I was well aware of this because we got Aviation Week & Space Technology magazine when I was a kid, so staying up on all the cool aerospace projects was easy. It was the mid 70’s and the Air Force was looking for an airplane to fill the Advanced Medium STOL Transport (AMST) role, ultimately looking at a modern replacement for the C-130. Boeing offered up the 2-engine YC-14 and McDonnell Douglas had the 4-engine YC-15. This CoolPix in the Modern Military category gives a great view of the Boeing airplane in flight. In the end, neither airplane went on to production and the AMST concept was dropped, but the YC-15 did later become the foundational concept that led to the C-17. Both the YC-14 and the YC-15 were considered quite successful at meeting the AMST requirements.
Something about the Boeing airplane really caught my attention over the one from MD. Of course I liked the high mounted turbofans that were tapping into a little used concept of Upper Surface Blowing (USB), where the high velocity jet blast actually sticks to the upper surface of the drooping flaps and gets directed downward giving you a large increase in lift. The YC-15 (and the C-17) mount the engine blast below the wing and direct it right at the drooped flaps for increased lift, but USB allowed the engines to be mounted higher and thus farther away from the ground and possible foreign object damage. This was potentially a pretty big deal as the primary objective was STOL performance from relatively unimproved fields.
But it was more than just the USB element of the YC-14 that I liked. It just looked like more fun. This short, tubby jet that was somehow ’sporty’ at the same time. And with massive flaps on a relatively short wing, stylish main gear pods, a huge T-tail and loads of cockpit windows, it seemed like it would be a great airplane to go play with. Imagine buzzing your friend’s house with this! The reports I’ve seen indicate the airplane had very impressive performance, especially low speed maneuverability. One of the AMST requirements was that the airplane had to be able to carry a 27,000 pound cargo, and fly a 1,000 mile round trip into a 2,000 foot runway without refueling. It appears that the airplane met its target, and the Boeing website even says the airplane could takeoff in just 1,000 feet with that 27,000 pound cargo. Pretty stinkin’ amazing for an airplane with a wingspan of 129 feet, which is actually about 3 feet shorter than its length! In a non STOL setting, the YC-14 had a 251,000 pound gross weight with an 81,000 pound payload.
So, I think I could be happy if this Christmas I somehow wound up with a flyable YC-14 under the tree. Only two were built, and it appears they both still exist out in sunny Arizona. S/N 72-1873, the prototype (and the airplane in the picture above) is on display at the Pima Air Museum, and S/N 72-1874 is at Davis Monthan AFB. Hopefully Santa is on good terms with Uncle Sam… and I promise, if I get this sweet STOL superjet for Christmas, everyone gets a free ride!