Going the distance: Globemaster III hits major milestone, flies 3,000,000 hours

  • Published
  • By Jenny Gordon
  • 78th Air Base Wing Public Affairs
The Air Force's C-17 Globemaster fleet celebrated a milestone this week - reaching 3 million flying hours, a significant feat considering the first aircraft was delivered to Joint Base Charleston, S.C., over 20 years ago.

Officials from Robins, flight crews and distinguished visitors from JBC met at each base earlier this week in a display of partnership and collaboration to celebrate the accomplishments of the men and women who've played a part in making the aircraft a success across the globe.

"In the relatively short lifetime of the fleet, when you look across all of the Air Force's weapon systems, that's a pretty big milestone," said Col. Amanda Myers, C-17 System Program Office director. "This signifies all the work that the C-17 has done, what the operators have been able to do with this aircraft, and all the capabilities it has brought to our Department of Defense." 

Robins is home to the Air Force's C-17 System Program Office, and the 562nd Aircraft Maintenance Squadron, whose 625 personnel are responsible for the heavy maintenance and overhaul of the aircraft.

The C-17 SPO at Robins - with personnel colocated at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, Ohio - includes foreign military sales and Boeing representatives responsible for the sustainment, modification, maintenance and overall service of the entire fleet.

"We've challenged our employees to build something better, and I will tell you with the C-17 we've accomplished just that - the world's premier airlifter," said retired Maj. Gen. Robert McMahon, Boeing director of field operations and former Warner Robins Air Logistics Center commander. "But as important as the airplane is, it's really all about the people. We in Boeing are proud of those that design and built this airplane, those that today maintain and sustain this aircraft, both in the U.S. Air Force and in our eight international partners, as well as within the SPO and the Warner Robins Air Logistics Complex." 

Although the Air Force received its final C-17 Globemaster III in 2013 - its 223rd aircraft, which was delivered to JBC that September - Robins will continue to manage and maintain the fleet for decades to come.

"Our role here is still very significant for the lifetime of the aircraft," said Myers. "The C-17 Program Office will be responsible for the operational safety, suitability and effectiveness of the fleet, with everything we do fitting into that realm. As aircraft get into a sustainment phase and start to age, that will become more important to make sure we understand what the aircraft is doing, and how it responds to the environments we put it in. 

"There's still quite a bit of work going on to make sure we keep it performing at the level it is today, and that it can provide the same level of service and mission capabilities that everyone has come to expect," she said. 

Among the C-17 modification work performed by the 562nd AMXS at Robins, there's the Globemaster Reach Improvement Program which brings aircraft up to a standard configuration; the On Board Inert Gas Generation II System; installing extended range fuel tanks to provide additional fuel capability and range; the Large Aircraft Infrared Countermeasures System; and a complete overhaul and maintenance package that occurs every five years. 

Earlier this year, maintainers with the 562nd accomplished a complex avionics and weather radar modernization package on a C-17, with the final aircraft completed as part of a long and steady program known as BLOCK 16. 

About a 30-minute flight from Warner Robins, Charleston is home to a host of mission partners, including the reserve flying wing, the 315th Airlift Wing; and the 437th AW, an active-duty flying wing which  flies and maintains one of the largest fleets of C-17 aircraft in the Air Force. 

Notably, the 437th AW's 17th Airlift Squadron became the first operational squadron to take delivery of the first C-17 in June 1993.  

"It's perfectly appropriate for the ceremony to be here today," said Col. John Lamontagne, 437th Airlift Wing commander at JBC. "Today is a great opportunity to recognize three million hours across the fleet. There have been a lot of firsts ... and this airplane has done some amazing things." 

The Air Force's newest, most flexible cargo aircraft continues missions across the globe - most recently humanitarian assistance to aid earthquake victims in Nepal.

There have been thousands of victims as a result of a massive 7.9-magnitude earthquake that struck the country on April 25, according to news reports, with the Air Force immediately deploying the first of two C-17s the next day to deliver disaster relief. 

Its mission included delivering a USAID Disaster Assistance Response Team, urban search and rescue teams, working dogs, and additional cargo and relief supplies. 

"The C-17 goes where and when the nation calls, whether that is to go to war or to promote peace," said Myers. "Along with Boeing we enjoy a strong, effective relationship with the Warner Robins Air Logistics Complex. The work you do every day is essential to increasing capability and maintaining the aircraft to the high level of performance that our nation has come to expect."