Despite its many military and humanitarian missions, none was more significant than the mission flown by the Hanoi Taxi, the aircraft Shown here at the US Airforce Museum, Dayton Ohio. This C-141 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.
Afterward, 66-0177 continued flying missions around the world, and over three decades of service, the Hanoi Taxi flew more than 40,000 hours and underwent many changes. Originally built as a C-141A model, its fuselage was lengthened by 23.3 feet in the early 1980s, and the USAF redesignated it as a C-141B. Later, the aircraft had its wings strengthened, and from 1997 to 2001, all C-141Bs were converted to C-141Cs by the addition of advanced avionics. In 2002 the Hanoi Taxi received its final programmed depot maintenance, and it was repainted as it appeared when it went to Hanoi in 1973 -- except for the Red Cross. It flew in these markings for the next four years.
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.