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Saturday, March 30, 2019

At Lima ’19, a US Air Force behemoth draws the crowds

The USAF C-17 at Lima ’19.
LANGKAWI: It was Christmas Eve of 2013 and if he were back in California, US, Captain Jeremy Shields would probably have been preparing for the holidays.
But the United States Air Force (USAF) pilot was on duty more than 12,000 km away in Karachi, Pakistan, and had just been called into action for his next mission.
An attack on a US base in Kabul, Afghanistan, had left 16 injured and the USAF was sent to evacuate the injured soldiers.
Fortunately, Shields, who flies the USAF’s Boeing C-17 Globemaster III, managed to get there in time, and every one of the 16 soldiers survived.
“The C-17 is special because if you are able to get in the plane within four hours of being shot, the chance of survival is better than 90%,” he tells FMT inside the mammoth aircraft.
Nicknamed the “Moose” because of the Moose-like sound it makes while refuelling, the C-17 is big enough for medics to perform surgery on board.
These flying behemoths were designed for the USAF but are also used by a number of other countries, including the United Kingdom, Australia, Qatar, and the United Arab Emirates.
USAF Captain Jeremy Shields says the C-17 is a fun plane to fly.
“It is a multirole platform: we can carry out medical evacuations, humanitarian missions, and transport military assets. Basically, we can provide rapid global mobility anytime,” says Shields as he shows us around the aircraft at the Langkawi International Maritime and Aerospace Exhibition 2019.
The lanky captain from the March Air Reserve Base in California, says during his last trip to Malaysia he transported in the US presidential car known as “The Beast”.
He has also transported, in one go, about 400 people who were evacuated from an earthquake in Haiti, and Navy dolphins in tanks to sniff out bombs in the ocean.
Despite its massive size and capabilities – the C-17 has a maximum gross takeoff weight of 585,000 pounds (265 tonnes) – the plane, depending on cargo, can be in the air for 12 hours without being refuelled.
“Double that with refuelling,” says Shields, adding the C-17 will only take a basic crew of a pilot, co-pilot, and loadmaster – who manages cargo – to fly.
USAF Captain Jeremy Shields stands at the entrance of the C-17.
At Lima, the C-17 was opened to visitors, many of whom sought shelter under the shadows of its extensive wingspan, and took selfies within its spacious cargo bay, which are large enough for a casual game of futsal.
The “Moose” are mostly stationed in airbases in US and Hawaii, but Shields says the nature of the plane means they can be used for missions around the world where they are needed, especially since the plane does not need a runway to land.
“We can land on dirt or grass, as long as there are no obstructions; we just need a clear stretch of 3,500 feet.”
Shields adds that the C-17, which many would have seen in Hollywood movies such as “Transformers”, is also a “fun” plane to fly.
“The thing I love about this plane, and I have flown eight different planes, is that it is the most fun, capable and easiest to fly. It flies like a fighter (jet),” he quips. - FMT

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