NEWS | June 12, 2013

Twenty years of C-17s at JB Charleston

By Senior Airman Jared Trimarchi Joint Base Charleston Public Affairs

June 14, 2013, marks the 20th anniversary of the delivery of the first C-17 Globemaster III to then Charleston Air Force Base and the U.S. Air Force.

'The Spirit of Charleston,' tail number 89-1192, landed at Charleston AFB at approximately 10:45 a.m. June 14, 1993, and was piloted by Gen. Merrill McPeak, the Chief of Staff of the Air Force at the time. Approximately 2,000 people witnessed the historical event, including South Carolina's senators, congressmen, service members and local residents.

The aircraft was delivered to the first C-17 squadron, the 17th Airlift Squadron. The squadron was declared operationally ready Jan. 17, 1995.

"Today, JB Charleston's C-17s have revolutionized the way cargo and passengers are transported throughout the world," said Stan Gohl, 437th Airlift Wing historian. "The C-17 is capable of rapid strategic deliveries to main operating bases or directly to forward operating bases in the area of responsibility.

"The aircraft can perform tactical airlift and airdrop missions and can also transport litters and ambulatory patients during aeromedical evacuations," he said.

The C-17s replaced the older C-141s, which operated from 1966 to 2000.

"Due to threats to the U.S. in recent years, the size and weight of U.S.-mechanized firepower and equipment have grown in response to the improved capabilities of potential adversaries," said Gohl. "This trend has increased air mobility requirements and the C-17 meets the Air Force's needs."

Before C-17s, C-141s carried cargo, supplies or troops, but the aircraft needed to land in a structured air field with a long runway, usually far away from hostile environments. The C-17 was designed to land in austere airfields and can take off and land on runways as short as 3,500 feet and 90 feet wide.

"The C-17's capability to land on dirt runways in hostile locations has cut out an extra step in transporting equipment and personnel," Gohl said. "C-17s save the Air Force man-hours and expenses by cutting out the cost of unloading and loading supplies multiple times."

The first flight for the C-17 occurred Sept. 15, 1991, almost two years before the delivery of the first operational aircraft to the Air Force.

"Since then, the C-17 has participated in almost every American contingency and humanitarian operation," Gohl said.

According to Boeing's website, the C-17 has broken 33 world records including payload altitude, time to climb and short takeoff and landing marks.

"During the past 20 years, the men and women who fly and maintain C-17s have amassed an impressive list of accomplishments," Gohl said. "In 2006, while the 17th AS was deployed as the 816th Expeditionary Airlift Squadron, they set four world records; number of drop zones, airdrops, sorties in a month and number of time definite delivery of passengers."

"On March 20, 2006, the C-17 airframe achieved its one-millionth flying hour during an evacuation mission in Iraq. On Dec. 21, 2006, members of Charleston AFB flew a world record, setting the largest formation flight from a single base; 20 C-17s in a single formation."

The maximum payload capacity of the C-17 is 170,900 pounds and it has an approximate cruise speed of 450 knots. The C-17 measures 174 feet long with a wingspan of 169 feet, 10 inches.

"The aircraft is operated by a crew of three; pilot, copilot and loadmaster, reducing manpower requirements, risk exposure and long-term operating cost," said Gohl.

The base received another C-17 in May and is scheduled to receive the final C-17 to roll off the Boeing assembly line for the Air Force later this year. The first C-17, The Spirit of Charleston, is still assigned here.

"Even though the C-17 is 20 years old, we will continue to see them in the air for many years to come," Gohl concluded.

General Characteristics of a C-17
Primary function: Cargo and troop transport
Prime Contractor: Boeing Company
Power Plant: Four Pratt and Whitney F117-PW-100 turbofan engines
Thrust: 40,440 pounds, each engine
Wingspan: 169 feet 10 inches
Length: 174 feet
Height: 55 feet one inch
Cargo compartment: Length 88 feet, width 18 feet, height 12 feet 4 inches
Speed: 450 knots at 28,000 feet
Service ceiling: 45,000 feet at cruising speed
Range: Global with in-flight refueling
Crew: Three
Maximum peacetime takeoff weight: 585,000 pounds
Load: 102 troops, 36 litter and five ambulatory patients and attendants, 170,900 pounds of cargo
Unit cost: $202.3 million
Date deployed: June 1993