C-17 Marks 2 Millionth Flight Hour During Airdrop
(January 2, 2011)
|SCOTT AIR FORCE BASE, Ill. (AFNS - 12/30/2010) -- This
month, the C-17 Globemaster III celebrated its two millionth
As a testament to the C-17 mission tempo, the aircraft
passed its two millionth flight hour just four years after
passing its first million-hour mark, and the first million
hours took 16 years to reach.
Although Air Mobility Command officials estimate the
international C-17 fleet passed the milestone on Dec. 14,
the achievement was commemorated on a Dec. 10 airdrop
mission out of Bagram Airfield, Afghanistan.
"It's definitely an honor," said Capt. Rick Kind, the
aircraft commander of the airdrop mission. "I think it's
great the Air Force is utilizing us for what we're designed
to do and using us at full capacity. We're flying nonstop,
but it's great flying."
A C-17 Globemaster III drops pallets of water and food over Mirebalais, Haiti, Jan. 21, 2010, to be distributed by members of the United Nations. The aircraft is from the 437th Airlift Wing at Charleston Air Force Base, S.C. (U.S. Air Force photo/Tech. Sgt. James L. Harper Jr.)
Air Force schedulers have doubled the number of airdrops in
the U.S. Central Command area of responsibility every year
since 2006. Helping fellow service members in remote
locations is what motivates C-17 crews to meet the high
demand. For example, air deliveries keep approximately 970
trucks off dangerous roads per month.
A few weeks prior to the milestone mission, Capt. Kind and
his crew had delivered fuel to Soldiers. They were later
informed on the radio that "if they hadn't received fuel
that day, they were basically gonna' go dry."
"In my perspective, combat airdrops in Afghanistan are some
of the best flying I've ever known," said the pilot, who's
flown the C-17 since 2003. "We're making a difference with
U.S. and coalition troops out on the ground in middle of
nowhere. Anything they need, which in this case is fuel, we
The two-million hour total includes C-17 hours flown by
international partners. However, approximately 94 percent of
the hours was flown by U.S. Air Force C-17s, said Capt. Mark
Szatkowski, the AMC C-17 weapon system manager.
The C-17 fleet is helping to meet the demand of the current
high operations tempo as it blurs strategic and tactical
lines in theater, conducting airdrop and air land missions,
flying into unimproved airfields and consistently being
re-tasked for emergency aeromedical evacuation and
humanitarian relief missions.
One reason for the C-17's success is its versatility in both
strategic and tactical airlift operations. The C-17 has
broken airdrop records monthly during the past year, keeping
an estimated 970 trucks off of hazardous roads per month. It
also plays an integral role in airlift and the 98 percent
survivability rate in aeromedical evacuation operations.
The aeromedical evacuation continuum success rate depends on
a series of dominoes falling on time and in order, according
to Col. Chris Benjamin, the commander of Task Force MED-EAST
"Each link in that chain has to be sound for the really
critically injured to have a chance," he said. He said that
if he needs to get a patient to follow-on care in Germany or
the U.S., "I don't want to have to wait until tomorrow."
Also dependent on the C-17's reliability are the aerial
porters at the busiest military airport in the world.
According to Lt. Col. Kirk Peterson, the commander of the
455 Expeditionary Aerial Port Squadron at Bagram, his Airmen
and the maintenance personnel there can work seven C-17s at
one time to turn them around for their next missions.
Aerial porters at the Afghanistan airfield handle
approximately 100 missions, 1,500 passengers and 800 short
tons of cargo daily, based on third-quarter figures, the
commander said. More than 83 percent of the cargo moved at
Bagram moves in three days or less.
"One goal of air mobility is to see how quickly you can move
cargo. The C-17 really enables that," Colonel Peterson said.
During the week prior to the commemorative mission, Bagram
Airmen saw 77 Globemasters.
Another goal of air mobility is flexibility. Integral to the
hectic symphony at Bagram is the ability to re-task
missions, such as reassigning a mission airlifting cargo to
become an airdrop or aeromedical evacuation mission.
According to Bagram's airfield nerve center, the Air
Terminal Operations Center, 42 percent of missions that flow
in receive line changes, which means they get re-cut for
A C-17 Globemaster III from March Air Reserve Base, Calif., lands on a dirt runway Dec. 5, 2010, at Fort Hunter-Liggett, Calif., during a medical exercise. (U.S. Air Force photo/Tech. Sgt. Nic Raven)
another mission; and many of these are C-17s.
This flexibility enabled C-17s to be among the first
aircraft on scene in Pakistan and Haiti this year, helping
victims of natural disasters. Captain Kind was part of the
second C-17 crew in Haiti after the earthquake.
"Our aircraft was diverted from its original mission this
summer to take an urban rescue team from New York to Haiti
to help recover earthquake victims there," Captain Kind
said. "We were there right after the earthquake happened.
Ever since the first C-17 Globemaster III was delivered to
the Air Force more than 17 years ago, the plane has become a
centerpiece and "workhorse" of the Air Force's airlift
In 2010 alone, C-17s and the Airmen who fly and maintain
them have supported humanitarian operations in Haiti and
Pakistan, a surge of 30,000 additional troops to
Afghanistan, and are part of a record-breaking year for
airdrops in Afghanistan.
The Dec. 10 milestone mission was a low-cost, low-altitude
assignment to deliver 70 thousand pounds of fuel to a remote
location in Afghanistan. The aircraft, dubbed with the call
sign "Moose 75," was from Charleston Air Force Base, S.C..
The air crew comprised Airmen deployed with the 816th
Expeditionary Airlift Squadron in Southwest Asia. Its
members included Captain Kind, Capt. Patrick Murphy, Capt.
Jordan Leicht and Senior Airman Carrie Symons from McChord
AFB, Wash.; as well as Staff Sgt. Paul Trowbridge from
Hickam AFB, Hawaii, and Staff Sgt. Jason Fatjo from
Charleston AFB, S.C.
(Master Sgt. Scott Sturkol, AMC Public Affairs, contributed
to this story.)
By USAF 1st Lt. Kathleen Ferrero
Air Mobility Command Public Affairs
Air Force News
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