C-17—LAST PRODUCTION FROM LONG BEACH SITE

December 29, 2015


The following post uses as reference material from the “Aviation Week” on-line publication.

LOS ANGELES – Boeing closed out C-17 deliveries and seven decades of aircraft production in Long Beach, California, with the departure of the last airlifter for the Qatar Emiri air force to the company’s San Antonio facility on Nov 29.

The final aircraft is one of four C-17s that will be delivered to Qatar in 2016, and together with one aircraft that remains unsold and in storage in Texas, takes the overall production tally to 279. Not including the prototype, structural test airframes and the five undelivered aircraft, Boeing has so far officially delivered 271 C-17s, including 223 to the U.S. Air Force and 48 to international operators.

The Qatar C-17 is one of 10 “white tails” for which Boeing committed to building without having a firm customer in 2013. Of the remaining aircraft, sales finalized this year include a single C-17 for Canada, which accepted its fifth in March, and the United Arab Emirates, which took two more aircraft for a total fleet of eight. Two additional aircraft from the final batch were also acquired by Australia, which formally accepted its eighth and last C-17 at Long Beach on Sept. 4. Other international operators include the U.K., Kuwait, India and the 12-nation Strategic Airlift Capability consortium of NATO.

While Boeing continues to provide support, maintenance and upgrades to the airlifter fleet under the C-17 Globemaster III Integrated Sustainment Program (GISP) Performance-Based Logistics program, the future of the production site at Long Beach remains undecided. Even though large sections of both the Boeing F/A-18 and Lockheed Martin F-35 are produced in California, the C-17 is the last series-built, fixed-wing aircraft to be completely assembled and delivered in the state. So the last delivery ends more than 70 years of full aircraft production at Long Beach and more than a century of complete fixed-wing aircraft serial manufacturing in California.

Let’s take a look at several interesting statistics of the C-17.  The following digital will indicate the basic configuration.

C-17 Digital

C-17 and Mountain

As you can see, this is one beautiful aircraft.

The cargo bay is monstrous, which is one reason for its popularity over the years.  Personnel or cargo or both are equally at home in this aircraft with generous accommodations.  In the digital below, you can see material and personnel share the cavernous internal structure, and I might add, with room to spare.

Cargo Bay

The cockpit is equally impressive with digital “everything”.  The days of analogue instrumentation are in the past.  The cabin crew is a three-person experience.

Cockpit

Now, we look at the basic design.

DESIGN:

The C-17 is 174 feet (53 m) long and has a wingspan of about 170 feet (52 m). It can airlift cargo fairly close to a battle area. The size and weight of U.S. mechanized firepower and equipment has grown in recent decades from increased air mobility requirements, particularly for large or heavy non-palletized outsize cargo.

The C-17 is powered by four Pratt & Whitney F117-PW-100 turbofan engines, which are based on the commercial Pratt and Whitney PW2040 used on the Boeing 757. Each engine is rated at 40,400 foot-pounds of force or 180 kN of thrust. The engine’s thrust reversers direct engine exhaust air upwards and forward, reducing the chances of foreign object damage by ingestion of runway debris, and providing enough reverse thrust to back the aircraft up on the ground while taxiing. The thrust reversers can also be used in flight at idle-reverse for added drag in maximum-rate descents. In vortex surfing tests performed by C-17s, up to 10% fuel savings were reported. Debris being swept into the engines on less-than-acceptable runways is a real concern to the flight crew.  This problem has been solved.

For cargo operations the C-17 requires a crew of three: pilot, copilot, and loadmaster. The cargo compartment is 88 feet (26.82 m) long by 18 feet (5.49 m) wide by 12 feet 4 inches (3.76 m) high. The cargo floor has rollers for palletized cargo but it can be flipped to provide a flat floor suitable for vehicles and other rolling stock. Cargo is loaded through a large aft ramp that accommodates rolling stock, such as a 69-ton (63-metric ton) M1 Abrams main battle tank, other armored vehicles, trucks, and trailers, along with palletized cargo.

Maximum payload of the C-17 is 170,900 lb (77,500 kg), and its Maximum takeoff weight is 585,000 lb (265,350 kg). With a payload of 160,000 lb (72,600 kg) and an initial cruise altitude of 28,000 ft (8,500 m), the C-17 has an unrefueled range of about 2,400 nautical miles (4,400 km) on the first 71 aircraft, and 2,800 nautical miles (5,200 km) on all subsequent extended-range models that include a sealed center wing bay as a fuel tank. Boeing informally calls these aircraft the C-17 ER.  The C-17’s cruise speed is about 450 knots (833 km/h) (Mach 0.74). It is designed to airdrop 102 paratroopers and their equipment. The U.S. Army’s canceled Ground Combat Vehicle was to be transported by the C-17.

The C-17 is designed to operate from runways as short as 3,500 ft (1,064 m) and as narrow as 90 ft (27 m). In addition, the C-17 can operate from unpaved, unimproved runways (although with greater chance of damage to the aircraft). The thrust reversers can be used to back the aircraft and reverse direction on narrow taxiways using a three- (or more) point turn. The plane is designed for 20 man-hours of maintenance per flight hour, and a 74% mission availability rate.

NATO CAPABILITY:

The United States recognized the need to provide the C-17 to NATO forces as early as 2006.  An increasing threat potential to Western Europe resulted in the purchase of the C-17 aircraft.

At the 2006 Farnborough Airshow, a number of NATO member nations signed a letter of intent to jointly purchase and operate several C-17s within the NATO Strategic Airlift Capability.  Strategic Airlift Capability members are Bulgaria, Estonia, Hungary, Lithuania, the Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Romania, Slovenia, the United States, as well as two Partnership for Peace countries Finland and Sweden as of 2010.   The purchase was for two C-17s, and a third was contributed by the U.S. On 14 July 2009, Boeing delivered the first C-17 under NATO’s Strategic Airlift Capability (SAC) program. The second and third C-17s were delivered in September and October 2009.

The SAC C-17s are based at Pápa Air Base, Hungary. The Heavy Airlift Wing is hosted by Hungary, which acts as the flag nation.  The aircraft are manned in similar fashion as the NATO E-3 AWACS aircraft.  The C-17 flight crew is multi-national, but each mission is assigned to an individual member nation based on the SAC’s annual flight hour share agreement. The NATO Airlift Management Programe Office (NAMPO) provides management and support for the Heavy Airlift Wing. NAMPO is a part of the NATO Support Agency (NSPA).   In September 2014, Boeing revealed that the three C-17s supporting NATO SAC missions had achieved a readiness rate of nearly 94 percent over the last five years and supported over 1,000 missions.

SUMMARY:

The C-17 has seen duty in the following countries:

  • India
  • Qatar
  • UAE
  • New Zealand
  • Australia
  • Canada
  • Kuwait
  • United Kingdom

Once again, the “stats” are as follows:

GENERAL CHARACTERISTICS SUMMARY:

  • Crew: 3: 2 pilots, 1 loadmaster (five additional personnel required for aeromedical evacuation)
  • Capacity:
    • 102 paratroopers or
    • 134 troops with palletized and sidewall seats or
    • 54 troops with sidewall seats (allows 13 cargo pallets) only or
    • 36 litter and 54 ambulatory patients and medical attendants or
    • Cargo, such as an M1 Abrams tank, three Strykers, or six M1117 Armored Security Vehicles
  • Payload: 170,900 lb (77,519 kg) of cargo distributed at max over 18 463L master pallets or a mix of palletized cargo and vehicles
  • Length: 174 ft (53 m)
  • Wingspan: 169.8 ft (51.75 m)
  • Height: 55.1 ft (16.8 m)
  • Wing area: 3,800 ft² (353 m²)
  • Empty weight: 282,500 lb (128,100 kg)
  • Max. takeoff weight: 585,000 lb (265,350 kg)
  • Powerplant: 4 × Pratt & Whitney F117-PW-100 turbofans, 40,440 lbf (180 kN) each
  • Fuel capacity: 35,546 U.S. gal (134,556 L)

Performance

  • Cruise speed: Mach 0.74 (450 knots, 515 mph, 830 km/h)
  • Range: 2,420 nmi  (2,785 mi, 4,482 km) ; 5,610 nmi (10,390 km) with paratroopers
  • Service ceiling: 45,000 ft (13,716 m)
  • Max. wing loading: 150 lb/ft² (750 kg/m²)
  • Minimum thrust/weight: 0.277
  • Takeoff run at MTOW: 7,600 ft (2,316 m)
  • Landing distance: 3,500 ft (1,060 m)

One of the most successful designs in military history.  As always, I welcome your comments.

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