The worldwide C-17 Globemaster III fleet hit three million flight hours on Tuesday 5 May. Boeing announced the impressive litte fun fact just as C-17s see good use for relief flights to earthquake stricken Nepal, and just as the final aircraft come off the production line in Long Beach, California.
It’s been close to 24 years since the C-17’s first flight on 15 September 1991. As expected from the start, the US has been the type’s main user, in the end ordering 223 aircraft. The 437th Air Wing at Charleston Air Force Base, South Carolina, is by far the most experienced C-17 unit, introducing the type in operational service in 1995.
Other nations using the Globemaster are the UK (8 aircraft), Australia (6 +2 on order), Canada (5), India (10), NATO (3) , Kuwait (2) , United Arab Emirates (6) and Qatar (4). The worldwide fleet hit 2 million hours in 2010.
— Boeing Defense (@BoeingDefense) May 5, 2015
The Globemaster III was an air transport workhorse in nearly all major conflicts over the last two decades. The type also provided aid to countless people worldwide. A civilian version of the C-17 was considered, but never materialized.
Another remarkable fact is that those 3 million flight hours resulted in only one fatal mishap,. On 28 July 2010, an Alaska Air National Guard C-17 crashed as the aircraft was taken beyond its flight limits during a practise display, killing all four crew members. The mishap was attributed to crew error. Other C-17s have been damaged during operations in Afghanistan, but those aircraft were patched up and continue to fly.
Currently, the last of 279 Globemasters built is being readied for flight in Long Beach and Boeing has started to auction production equipment. However, five aircraft remain unsold. With defense spending set to rise as a result of current international turmoil – and natural disasters unfortunately being a fact of life – these ‘white tail’ ‘aircraft will however sure find their way to users and many more flight hours.
© 2015 Airheadsfly.com editor Elmer van Hest
Featured image: A US Air Force C-17. (Image © Elmer van Hest)