The "Conair Providers"

For the movie Conair at least 3 airframes were used of the Fairchild C-123 Provider; 2 seem to have been adequately identified, a third remained a mystery for a long time...

--Click on the photo for a larger image--

Fairchild C-123 with fake registration N709RR is seen here at Wendover Airfield at the border of Nevada and Utah. This C-123 took part in the Movie "Conair". This aircraft was modified and powered by a diesel engine for the ground taxying sequences and was one of 2 stand-ins for the real N709RR, the one used for the flyinf sequences. (Photo: J.Tuin, published with permission, ).

The real N709RR is Fairchild C-123K, construction number 20158 and formerly operated by the USAF with serial 54-0709. Graham Robson has the following to say on this subject:"The information regarding three different aircraft was told to me from while I attended an airshow at Reno(NV), by the person who owned (the real) N709RR at the time. This fake N709RR has been photographed at Wendover at the same time as the real N709RR was on the line at Reno-Stead".

The 'Reno N709RR' (c/n 20158) has been used for the flying sequences for the movie and was been sold by end-2003 to Bill Michel of Delta Junction,AK. It was flown to Alaska during the Fall of 2004. Bill Michel is the bossman of All West Freight, which operates from a privat airfield (AK77) near Delta Junction, hauling cargo for the mining industry.
Aad van der Voet actually went to Bill's hidden airfield in june 2006: All West Airport, Delta Junction,AK and found 20158 there.

This is the real N709RR (c/n 20158), ex/USAF 54-0709.
Photo by © Graham Robson at Reno,NV Oct96.

UPDATE: c/n 20158 crashed into Mount Healy (Alaska) on 01Aug10.
All three occupants died, including All West Freight owner and pilot William H. 'Wild Bill' Michel (I've seen his name spelled as Mikel too, but perhaps that was how it was pronounced).


For anyone who has seen the movie Conair, the crash on the Strip of Las Vegas was the end of the line for that airframe!
This was C-123B 40706 (USAF 54-0706, c/n 20155).
Graham Robson: "40706 and 40661 were pulled from the long term storage in DMI's yards in the mid 1990s, both began engine tests in the yard with the prospect of being made airworthy (according to DMI at the time) - I have shots of one of them with very fresh oil spills on the fuselage under the engines attesting to old engines trying to come back to life.
After this, both airframes were stripped to bare metal and remained in DMI. Again, I photographed them extensively over a few years, until one of them was removed. I saw this at Las Vegas, in position at the old Sands prior to the shooting of the crash scene, at the very same time (2 days before) I had photographed the one remaining example in the yard at TUS - (it had since moved to the open storage lot, the old Allied yard behind Wooton and Minden where the EC-121 still rests). From this (knowing the remaining was 40661) and close scrutiny of various marks and dents on the frame at Las Vegas, I am extremely confident that the expired example at Las Vegas was 40706
Here are some photos of 54-0706, all made by © Graham Robson

Stored at the MASDC in Oct.1982

54-0706 at DMI Aviation Yard, Oct95

Conair prop in Las Vegas, Oct.1996
Graham continued: "I was told by CIA ('Classics in American Aviation') in Reno that 3 aircraft were used, one was 'converted' to be able to drive using an old bus transmission and part of its chassis for the ground shots (obviously the one at Wendover), which is where the scenes were filmed that included lots of junk transported up from the yards at Tucson(AZ), including some of the old Go transportation Viscount sections and a C-54 from Allied. It was also reported that the remains of the crashed airframe at LAS were eventually trucked to the Aviation Warehouse at Adelanto, though while I've been inside twice since then (once in late April 2005) and had a good look around, I did not manage to find any remnants of it. But the condition of many of the frames there make this almost impossible..."


So we have one airworthy and one 'dead'; the mystery one is the C-123 parked at Wendover AFB in Nevada. brought the matter to our attention again as the fake N709RR was seen moved outside the fenced area and Jeff Miller shot some interesting photos (date: 19May05):
N94DT / N709RR 'Jailbird'
Jeff wrote: "Fairchild C-123K Provider, with United States Marshal titles at Wendover (ENV / KENV, - Utah, May 19,2005)
"The "Jailbird" spending it's days on the ramp at Wendover. On the left in the background is the Atomic mission hangar 1831. Often referred to as the Enola Gay hangar, was built specifically to house the "new" B-29's of the 393rd Bombardment Squadron."
Jeff's other photos at of N709RR:
Close up exterior front section
Inside the cabin
Modified cockpit interior
When Jeff was contacted about the mystery concerning this aircraft, he returned to this Fairchild Provider and found out the true identity of this C-123 warhorse: former USAF 56-4361, a C-123K (operated at one time with 439th TAW, it was never used by civilian operators). Jeff took a photo of the identity plate, showing c/n 20245, which can be seen (and there is much more to be read) at Aad van der Voet's website

C-123 profile at

Graham Robson wrote me years later about an unmarked C-123, found to be 40706 (and 40661), Search for Identities.

Another C-123, one with the story of the Iran-Contras and Oliver North story attached to it, can be found on this external link to The History of El Avion; it is part of the Hotel Costa Verde (which is located on a coastal rainforest bluff, overlooking the Pacific beaches of Manuel Antonio National Park near Quepos, Costa Rica).

Craig C.Smith sent me some recent photos in Sep.2006.
Back to In Search For...

Last updated 28.9.2006