Air Transportation: Pork Blocks Improving the Fleet


March 7, 2006: While politicians love to build military aircraft (they are expensive, and create lots of jobs for grateful voters), transports don't get as much respectful attention as do fighters and bombers. Case in point is the U.S. Air Force's C-5 transport. This is the largest aircraft in the air force inventory, and the most expensive to maintain. The C-5 has been a prime example of pork barrel politics since it first went into service nearly 40 years ago. The last of them were built in 1989. Congress likes them so much that it will not allow the air force to retire any of them without Congressional permission. The air force is now asking, begging even, for permission, to retire some of its 125 C-5s. The reason is simple; money. It would be cheaper to build more of the new C-17s, than it would be to maintain the current fleet of C-5s. Without some extra money, the C-17 production line will close in 2008. Starting up C-17 production again will up the per-aircraft price. Not only is Congress stingy with money for air transports, it likes to micromanage how it is spent. While the air force says it needs 222 C-17s, it currently only has money for 180.


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