With a low approach over the Long Beach, Calif. factory in salute to the workers who built the mighty aircraft, and the community who supported it, the last C-17 Globemaster III soared toward the horizon, officially ending a two decade production run of the world’s foremost airlifter. If this seems like the end of the line for the C-17 – it isn’t.
The C-17 was designed for a minimum of 30 years at 1,000 flight hours per year or 30,000 total hours. The design was not frozen in time with the first successful C-17 flight on Sept. 15, 1991 . Upgrades and modernization efforts have been ongoing since early production and the U.S. Air Force recently extended the C-17 service life limit to 42,750 hours. Evaluation efforts with engineers are underway that might further extend the limit to 45,000 hours per aircraft.
Boeing will continue to partner with global C-17 customers to provide sustainment and modernization of their aircraft wherever they are operated. The program has a public-private agreement designed around the concept of performance-based logistics in which customers pay for the aircraft to be ready for the mission, not specific parts or services. The economies of scale for purchasing materials, parts availability and technical expertise for repairs and maintenance makes this a model program for sustaining a worldwide fleet. The C-17 sustainment program also saves taxpayer dollars and supports the Pentagon’s Better Buying Power initiatives.
More than 16,000 Boeing employees in California will continue the rich aerospace heritage of the region in both defense and commercial business. While production of the C-17 has come to a close, the C-17 is just getting started. Check out the photos and videos posted to twitter at #C17FlyBye and watch for news of the C-17 delivering troops, military equipment and humanitarian aid around the world for decades to come.