C-17 fleet celebrates 3M flying hours

JOINT BASE CHARLESTON, S.C. — The C-17 Globemaster III has proved again that it remains the world’s premier airlifter after the total C-17 fleet celebrated the historical milestone of achieving 3 million flying hours on May 5.

The C-17 is the only strategic airlifter in the world that has tactical capabilities that allow it to fly between continents; land on short, austere runways, and airdrop supplies precisely where needed. The C-17 fleet is in its 22nd year of operation; it was first delivered in June 1993.

Getting to the 3-millionth flying hour all started on Sept. 15, 1991, when the aircraft made its maiden flight. The C-17 passed the 1-million-hour mark in March 2006 and the 2-million-hour mark in December 2010.

Ceremonies were held at Robins Air Force Base, Georgia, and Joint Base Charleston to commemorate the fleet’s milestone. As part of the ceremony, a combined Charleston aircrew and Boeing team flew a ceremonial flight.

“It is such a great privilege and an honor to be a part of the C-17 program,” said Col. Amanda Meyers, the C-17 System Program director. “In the C-17’s relatively short history, it has done extraordinary things.

“The platform provides unparalleled strategic and tactical airlift and airdrop capability to our nation as well as eight other partner nations. It has become the airlifter of choice for our Air Force. The incredible partnership between our active-duty, Reserve forces and National Guard make the C-17 a huge enabler for the United States of America. It not only allows us to fight and win our nation’s wars, but also to provide humanitarian assistance at an international level.”

The Air Force owns 222 C-17s and international allied partners have 44 of these strategic airlifters. 

“Our partner nations also benefit greatly from the capabilities that the C-17 brings to their defense organizations and national global contributions,” Meyers said.

Meyers, who became the C-17 program director last summer, realizes now how much heavy lifting the C-17 does.

“Every time the news is on and there’s a call for assistance or unquestionable capability, the C-17 is part of the story,” she said. “Last summer, I turned on the news to see a Royal Australian Air Force C-17 conducting a dignified transfer after the MH17 (crash). Last week, I turn on the news to hear about the earthquake in Nepal and see an Indian Air Force C-17 providing humanitarian help, quickly followed by C-17s from the United States, Canada and United Kingdom.

“The C-17 is where and when the nation calls, wherever that is, to go to war or promote peace,” Meyers continued. “Our mission is to acquire and obtain safe, effective and unrivaled global reach capability.”

Along the flight with Meyers was retired Maj. Gen. Robert McMahon, the Boeing director of field operations.

“As many of you know, this is Boeing’s 100th anniversary, and we have challenged each employee to build something better,” McMahon said. “I will tell you that with the C-17, we have accomplished just that. The world’s premier airlifter.”

McMahon recognized that the success of the aircraft lies with the people that built it, maintain it and fly it. 

“We and Boeing are tremendously proud of those that designed and built this aircraft, those today that maintain and sustain this aircraft and those the currently operate the aircraft,” he said. 

Over time, the world has come to see the C-17 as the vehicle that carries hope and freedom.

“What makes (the C-17) special is each and every day, no matter the condition, this aircraft carries something very special, and that is hope to the people on the ground,” McMahon said. “Whether that was in Iraq or Afghanistan, or whether that’s the streets of New Orleans during the floods, or whether that’s someplace like Nepal today. When that t-tail shows up each and every day, what that means to the people on the ground, is hope for the future. That’s what these tremendous crews deliver.”

Following the preflight ceremony at Robins AFB, Charleston Airmen prepared for takeoff as they had their eyes set on returning home.

Once the crew arrived at Charleston, Col. John Lamontagne, the 437th Airlift Wing commander, addressed those in attendance at the ceremony.

“Today is an amazing celebration recognizing 3 million hours in the C-17,” Lamontagne said. “We’ve come a long way since we first arrived here in July of 1993. Lots of lessons (have been) learned. It’s a fantastic airplane built by Boeing for the Air force. 

“The Air Force talks about ‘do something amazing,’” Lamontagne said. “This airplane does something amazing.”

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