Tennessee's 164th Airlift Wing of the Air National Guard unveiled its newest cargo aircraft Saturday, a plane that costs more than $200 million and can airlift people and supplies for military and disaster relief almost anywhere in the world.
"Once you're up in the air it's like flying a two-story apartment building," said wing commander Col. Mark Devine of the C-17 Globemaster III plane. The Boeing plane made its maiden voyage in the early 1991, but it has been slowly phased in, replacing the military's former C5 Galaxy cargo and troop carriers.
Two of the Globemaster planes sat on the grounds of the 164th Airlift Wing Saturday, one inside a giant hangar and one outdoors, a few hundred feet from a C-5 Galaxy. By 2015, all of the wing's eight cargo carriers will be the newer Globemasters.
The rollout Saturday was to signify what amounts to a new platform for the state's Air National Guard. "Anytime you change from one platform to another is really a major thing within the military," said Capt. Ben Alumbaugh, public affairs officer for the 164th Airlift Wing.
The C-5 planes were bigger, about 223 feet compared with the 174-foot long C-17s, but the C17s are more nimble. Among their features, according to Boeing, is that the newer planes can take off from a 7,600-foot airfield, carry a payload of 160,000 pounds, fly 2,400 nautical miles, refuel while in flight and land in 3,000 feet or less on a small unpaved or paved airfield during the day or night. Each has four engines with thrust reversers to direct the flow of air upward and forward to avoid ingestion of dust and debris.