Heavy-Lifters Flying A Lot More Than Originally Planned
Earlier this week, Boeing and the Air Force announced the fleet
of C-17 Globemaster III airlifters currently in service reached one
million flying hours -- the equivalent of one of the cargo jets
flying continuously for more than 114 years. The million-mile mark
was achieved on a mission Monday evacuating injured US troops from
Iraq, and transporting them to Germany for medical treatment.
The Air Force selected this C-17 and its crew -- comprised of
active duty US Air Force (USAF), Air National Guard, Air Force
Reserve and Royal Air Force members -- to represent the entire
The Air Force originally anticipated the C-17 fleet would have
intense 30-day surge periods only a few times in the aircraft's
lifetime. Since the war on terrorism began nearly five years ago,
however, the fleet has been surging continuously. Relief for
natural disasters like earthquakes, hurricanes and the 2004 Indian
Ocean tsunami has added to the demand.
"The intense, non-stop pace of C-17 operations is like driving
the Indianapolis 500 on a daily basis, rather than once a year,"
said Dave Bowman, Boeing vice president and C-17 program manager.
"Our unparalleled customer support of the operational fleet has
been a key element in enabling the C-17's surge mode. Boeing teams
are working side-by-side with the customer's maintenance crews
around the globe, 24 hours a day. We are there for our customer --
The flight hour milestone came significantly sooner than Air
Force or Boeing planners anticipated. Officials at the Tanker
Airlift Control Center, the Air Force's nerve center for global
airlift operations, confirmed that C-17s have been pressed much
harder than planned since September 11, 2001.
"Reaching this milestone is an incredible accomplishment for the
entire C-17 team," Bowman said. "And hitting one million flight
hours more than a year ahead of the original plan is a testament to
the aircraft and our customers' confidence in it."
Whether supporting the warfighter or providing vital
humanitarian relief around the globe, the C-17 has continually
demonstrated during its first million hours why it is now the
world's airlifter of choice.
"When you look at the punishment this aircraft takes from the
environment it operates in -- landing regularly on unimproved
surfaces and lengthy stays away from home station maintenance --
the high mission capable rate seems to illustrate that the aircraft
structures and systems are robust and up to the challenge," said US
Air Force Lt. Col. Donald Dickerson of the Air Mobility Command's
Aircraft Maintenance Section.
The C-17's million-hour journey began with its first flight from
Long Beach, CA on September 15, 1991. While most of those hours
have been flown by C-17 customers, Boeing's ongoing support was
integral to reaching the milestone. The quality, capability and
reliability designed and built into the C-17 have allowed the
customer to fly the airplane far beyond the number of hours
Boeing employees and supplier company partners will gather March
27 at the Long Beach, CA C-17 assembly plant to hear from the US
Air Force and U.K. Royal Air Force leaders responsible for amassing
this remarkable flight hour tally. The C-17 crew and the jet they
flew for the aeromedical evacuation into Iraq also will attend.
Boeing currently is on a multi-year production contract to
design, build and deliver 180 C-17s to the US Air Force through
2008. To date, the USAF has 148 C-17s in its fleet, with four
additional Globemaster IIIs operated by the Royal Air Force.
Boeing also hopes the US military will decide it needs more of
the heavy-lift cargo aircraft, as current orders are on the books only