The end of November, 2015 saw the completion of the very last Boeing C-17 Globemaster III and the shuttering of the aircraft’s assembly line. For those of you who need a little background on the C-17, it happens to be the most advanced strategic airlift aircraft in existence, flying in eight different air forces around the world. Versatile, incredibly reliable and very powerful, the C-17 will undoubtedly be flying as the backbone of those eight air forces’ strategic airlift commands for years to come.
But that’s not what I wanted to briefly talk about today.
Thanks to the fact that aviation tends to occupy a fair bit of space in my noggin, one of the first questions I throw at friends returning from deployments is “what did you fly on?”, and they (thankfully) reward my curiosity. For the most part, the answer has always been “a C-17” or something to the effect of “one of those big grey AF birds… forgot the name”, whereupon a quick question-and-answer period reveals that, indeed, it was a C-17 they flew on.
But on two different occasions, I couldn’t ask the friends, who returned, what they flew on. Both had lost their lives serving in Afghanistan, one to an improvised explosive device (IED) and the other to enemy fire while on patrol. I nevertheless found out, somehow, that they returned home for the final time aboard C-17s. So not only does the C-17 appear to me as a marvel of technology and engineering achievement, it also comes with a slightly deeper impact- it’s what brings our fighting men and women home. To me, that counts for a hell of a lot, as I’m sure it does for many of you too, especially the families of servicemen and women who go through such deployments.
I’m also sure that the C-17 has considerably more meaning to many of our readers, including those who’ve crewed it, flown it, and flown on it. But to me, whenever I see one of those massive beasts bite into the skies, this is what comes to mind.
While they’ve stopped building it, it’ll still be flying for years to come, and I know that every time I see one, I’ll look at it with the exact same mixture of awe and reverence which I’ve felt ever since I received a hastily-typed message on Facebook, informing me that a friend would be flown into Delaware before his remains carried on to his hometown in the Midwest.