Air Transportation: October 29, 1999


: Congress has given the Pentagon authority to buy another 60 C-17 Globemaster-III airlifters (beyond the 120 now on order) but only if the price can be reduced by 25% below the current $198 million price tag. Just about everyone outside of Congress believes that even more of the huge versatile aircraft will be needed to meet the needs of the Pentagon, given the steady retirement of C-141s.--Stephen V Cole

The US Air Force is considering a radical plan: turn over all of the C-5 Galaxy air transports to the Air Force Reserve and Air National Guard. There are several points to this. For one thing, the Air Force knows it will have to keep the 30-year-old aircraft flying for another 40 years, and it cannot do this if they are in regular day-to-day service. Transferring them to the reserves would mean that the planes would fly only a few times a year for special needs missions, and could save their remaining flying time for the next war. Another factor is maintenance. At any time, 40% of the Galaxies are sidelined for repairs. Flying them less often would mean that more are ready to fly at any given time for the same spare parts budget. Moreover, personnel in Reserve and Guard units tend to remain with their units for extended periods (rather than two years for active duty personnel) and could get to know each airplane and its quirks individually over a period of decades. This might make the huge planes easier to keep in repair and quicker to get back into service when they break down.--Stephen V Cole


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