History lands at McChord

Last C-17 added to flight line

By J.M. Simpson on April 8, 2013

A bit of history landed at McChord Field yesterday morning.

"There's a great deal of symbolism here," Lt. Gen. Darren McDew said moments after landing McChord Field's last and newest C-17 after a 2.3 hour flight from Long Beach, CA.

"This is a big day for this kid with a 9 year old boy's heart and the love of flying beating inside."

Affable and approachable, McDew is the commander of 18th Air Force based at Scott Air Force Base, Ill.  He served as an operations group commander at McChord in 2000.

"What this aircraft represents is personal, McDew continued.  "It is a sweet, sweet airplane."

At $202.3 million per airframe, the Boeing built C-17 Globemaster III is the newest and most flexible cargo aircraft in the airlift force.

Three more C-17s are scheduled for delivery to Charleston Joint Base, S.C. before production ends, bringing the Air Force's total number of the airplane to 223.

"You're looking at an art form," Col. Bruce Bowers, commander, 446 Airlift Wing (Reserve) commented.  "It is a beautiful plane to fly."

The C-17 is capable of rapid strategic delivery of troops and all types of cargo to bases anywhere in the world.

A unique feature of the airframe is its ability to operate on small airfields.  It can take off and land on runways as short as 3500 feet and 90 feet wide.  

Reliability and maintainability are two benefits that aircraft touts.  The aircraft's mission completion success rate is 92 percent.

"We are good stewards of the taxpayer's money," McDew said.  

He also said that although sequestration will have an impact, the Air Force is always looking to economize.

After its near perfect noontime landing, the newest addition to McChord Field's inventory of airframes was parked nose-to-nose with the first C-17 delivered to the base in July, 1990.

"Today is a milestone in McChord's history," Col. Wyn Elder, commander, 62nd Airlift Wing, stated to the small group of assembled airmen and local officials.

Noting that the C-17 has been in service primarily since America has been at war, Elder said that the aircraft has been a part of some amazing operations ranging from relief missions to resupply missions.

"It has always been there in support of our Soldiers and Marines serving in Iraq and Afghanistan," he noted.

"It is still answering our nation's call."

Both McDew and Elder noted that the connection between McChord, the Reserves, the community and business is vital to the Air Force.

"The public has given us a highly versatile aircraft," McDew continued.  "To them I say ‘Thank you.'"

"The C-17 has allowed us to keep our promises - from helping during natural disasters to bring home our fallen heroes."

Photo: Lt. Gen. Darren McDew, commander, 18th Air Force, and Col. Wyn Elder, commander, 62nd Airlift Wing, step off the last C-17 Globemaster III to be delivered to McChord Field.  The other C-17 pictured is the first aircraft delivered in July 1990.