Team Edwards and the C-17 Integrated Test Team at the 418th Flight Test Squadron recently bid the U.S. Air Force’s first C-17 Globemaster III (S/N 87-0025) a final farewell as it departed Edwards April 23 to make its final ferry flight to the National Museum of the United States Air Force in Dayton, Ohio, where a ceremony was held April 25 in honor of decommissioning the aircraft.
More commonly known as T-1 for Test 1, the aircraft had its first flight on Sept. 15, 1991, when it was delivered from the McDonnell Douglas (now Boeing) C-17 final assembly plant in Long Beach, Calif., to Edwards AFB, where it was used for flight test for 21 years.
“April 23 was a bittersweet experience. By nature, especially from a pilot’s perspective, the end of anyone or anything’s flying career is an emotional event, but I was glad we had a large celebration to honor her legacy to the test community and the impact she has had on the operational C-17 fleet and our nation,” said Maj. Eric Bippert, 418th FLTS Assistant Director of Operations who flew T-1’s final ferry flight. “Although T-1’s flying career is over, she will start a new chapter of her life at the National Museum of the Air Force. There, she will continue her legacy in a different role and enrich the lives of countless visitors for decades to come.”
Of the aircrew who flew onboard T-1, NASA Research Test Pilot Frank Batteas, Associate Director for Flight Operations at NASA’s Dryden Flight Research Center said the opportunity to fly on this ferry flight was especially meaningful since he originally flew chase on T-1’s first flight back in 1991 and later flew as an Air Force C-17 test pilot for the initial development program.
“I was fortunate to be a part of this great aircraft and its development since the beginning of C-17 flight testing,” said Batteas. “This is a fitting tribute to the designers, engineers, maintenance and aircrew that this aircraft reside at the Air Force Museum for many people to enjoy. It has been my pleasure to fly and test this aircraft.”
Before the aircraft could arrive to the National Museum of the USAF, C-17 ITT members from Edwards had to prepare the aircraft at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, Ohio, in order for it to meet museum standards.
“Once we landed at Wright-Patterson, we had to post-flight T-1 in order to prepare her for her final flight. That meant restoring, removing instrumentation and reclaiming avionics units on the aircraft in order induct test assets back into the active Air Force supply system to support existing C-17s because T-1 was upgraded during all of her tenure at Edwards,” said Drew Gross, Boeing T-1 aircraft coordinator.
Seeing how T-1 was the first Air Force C-17 built to perform developmental testing, while at Edwards, the aircraft performed many firsts such as being the first to conduct personnel parachute jumps made from a C-17; being in the first four-ship C-17 formation; performing the first aerial refueling for the C-17 flight test program; and setting a record for the heaviest single payload ever extracted from a C-17 transport during a flight mission.
“Since T-1 was the first C-17 off the line, it was the template for production of hundreds of airlift aircraft and it was paramount in providing the capabilities in C-17s today,” said Patti Fontecchio, C-17 ITT Deputy Director.
Aside from being involved in many of the C-17 program’s milestones, T-1 was also known for making cameo appearances in motion pictures such as “Transformers,” “Iron Man,” “Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen,” “Iron Man 2″ and “Man of Steel” (to be released by Warner Brothers in 2013). T-1 also appeared in country superstar Toby Keith’s Emmy Award-winning music video production of “American Soldier.”
According to the National Museum of the USAF website, the museum anticipates T-1 to be on public display in the museum’s Air Park this summer.
“While it might be difficult to see this aircraft leave Edwards, this new location now represents a completion of mission duties for 87-0025, which included technological advances, visions from mechanics, technicians, engineers, scientists and now she’s coming full circle to inspire a generation to advance aerospace beyond our dreams,” added Gross.
Fact Sheet for U.S. Air Force C-17A Globemaster III, SERIAL NUMBER 87-0025, T-1
The following is a brief overview of key historical events in the flight testing of U.S. Air Force C-17A, Serial Number 87-0025, dubbed T-1 for Test 1, the first C-17A Globemaster III ever built, and the only for-test airframe ever built for the C-17A program.
- Aug. 24, 1988: Assembly of T-1 at McDonnell Douglas’ aircraft plant in Long Beach, Calif., began.
- Sept. 15, 1991: First flight of T-1 from Long Beach Municipal Airport to Edwards AFB. The flight crew consisted of pilot Bill Casey, co-pilot Lt. Col. George London (6510th Test Wing), loadmaster Ted Venturini, and FTE George Van de Graaf, both McDonnell Douglas personnel.
- Aug. 12, 1992: T-1 demonstrated its short takeoff and payload capability, taking off with a gross weight of 350,000 pounds, using only 1200 feet of runway at Edwards AFB despite a temperature of 100 degrees.
- Sept. 15, 1992: T-1 participated in the first four-ship C-17 formation, achieving a new maximum gross take-off weight at 538,000 pounds.
- Sept. 23, 1992: T-1 achieved the first aerial refueling of the C-17 flight test program.
- July 6, 1993: T-1 was used to make the first personnel parachute jumps from a C-17 at 12,500 feet over Edwards AFB.
- November 2003-June 2004: T-1 and P-97 were used to meet an AMC critical combat mission need in support of special operation forces, to conduct multiple personnel drop test missions resulting in a 15,000-pound increase in maximum gross weight for C-17s. The new capability was fielded at the conclusion of the test effort.
- March 10, 2008: T-1 reached its 1000th flight and had put in about 4,000 flight hours to date.
- April 14, 2010: T-1 set a record for the heaviest single payload ever extracted from a C-17 transport during a flight mission. A 77,000-pound jumbo drop test vehicle, used to test parachutes for NASA’s Ares I launch vehicle solid rocket booster, was extracted out of C-17A “T-1″ at 25,000 feet above the U.S. Army Yuma Proving Ground, Ariz.
Editor’s note: Information courtesy of the Air Force Flight Test Center History Office.