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C-17 Fleet Surpasses 3,000,000 Flight Hours

By Airman 1st Class Clayton Cupit, Joint Base Charleston Public Affairs

Today, the C-17 Globemaster III has proved yet again that it remains the world’s premier airlifter after the total C-17 fleet celebrated the historical milestone of achieving 3,000,000 flying hours on May 5, 2015.

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 they are needed. The C-17 fleet is in its 22nd year of operation since it was first delivered in June 1993.

Getting to the 3,000,000th flying hour all started on September 15, 1991 when the aircraft made its maiden flight.  The C-17 passed the 1,000,000 hour mark in March 2006 and the 2,000,000 hour mark in December 2010.

A ceremony was held at Robins Air Force Base, Ga., and Joint Base Charleston, S.C. to commemorate this milestone for the C-17 fleet. As part of the ceremony, a combined JB Charleston aircrew and Boeing Team flew a ceremonial flight commemorating the milestone.

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

C-17-3M hours arrives

A C-17 Globemaster III assigned to the 437th Airlift Wing and the 315th Airlift Wing is sprayed with water May 5, 2015 at Joint Base Charleston, S.C., during an event celebrating the C-17 surpassing the three millionth flying hour. Aircrew members from JB Charleston flew the plane from Robins Air Force Base, Georgia. U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Jared Trimarchi

The platform provides unparalleled strategic and tactical airlift and airdrop capability to our nation as well as eight other partner nations,” said Meyers. “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 USAF has ownership of 222 C-17s and our 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,” said Meyers.

“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,” said Meyers. “Our mission is to acquire and obtain safe, effective and unrivaled global reach capability.”

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. “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,” said Meyers. “Our mission is to acquire and obtain safe, effective and unrivaled global reach capability.”

C-17 3M hours people

Personnel from the C-17 System Program Office, Boeing and aircrew members from the 437th Airlift Wing pose for a photo in front of a C-17 Globemaster III at Robins Air Force Base, Ga., May 5, 2015. During the flight to Joint Base Charleston, S.C., the C-17 logged the fleet’s three-millionth flying hour. Upon arriving at JB Charleston, the aircraft taxied through a water arch provided by the 628th Civil Engineering Squadron’s Fire Department and was met by senior leaders and JB Charleston civic leaders. U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Clayton Cupit

Along the flight with Col. Meyers was Maj. Gen. (ret) Robert McMahon, 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,” said McMahon. “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.

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

“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.

Overtime, 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,” said McMahon. “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 each and every day.”

Following the pre-flight ceremony at Robins AFB, the Charleston Team prepared for takeoff as they had their eyes set on returning home.

Once the crew arrived at JB Charleston, Col. Lamontagne, 437th Airlift Wing commander, addressed those in attendance during the ceremony with some final remarks.

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

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