A key feature was the introduction of the Allison T56 turboprop powerplant, which was developed for the C-130. At the time, the turboprop was a new application of gas turbines , which offered greater range at propeller-driven speeds compared to pure turbojets , which were faster but consumed more fuel. They also produced much more power for their weight than piston engines.
The aircraft, a Consolidated PB4Y-2 Privateer registered N7620C, was built during World War II . It had been delivered in July 1945 to the United States Navy , which used it for coastal patrol duties. In 1952, it was transferred to the United States Coast Guard , which operated it until it was retired in 1956. The aircraft was removed from storage and converted to an airtanker in 1958, then was flown by several different companies, the last being Hawkins & Powers. At the time of the crash, the airframe had logged 8,346.3 flight hours.