April 25, 2012

Dryden’s chief pilot flies first C-17 to Air Force Museum

NASA photograph by Tony Landis
The first U.S. Air Force C-17 Globemaster III lifts off Runway 22L at Edwards Air Force Base, Calif., April 23 on its way to Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, Ohio. The focus of C-17 developmental flight testing for the Air Force and aeronautical research for NASA over its 21-year lifespan, the C-17 "T-1" test aircraft is being retired and will become part of the permanent collection at the National Museum of the Air Force.

The U.S. Air Force’s first C-17 Globemaster III, known as the T-1 aircraft will soon become part of the National Museum of the U.S. Air Force at Dayton, Ohio.

NASA Research Test Pilot Frank Batteas, associate director for Flight Operations at NASA’s Dryden Flight Research Center, was one of three pilots who ferried the first C-17 to Wright-Patterson Air Force Base April 23.

Batteas, who was assigned to the C-17 program as an Air Force test pilot for four years before coming to NASA, flew chase on C-17 T-1’s first flight back in 1991.

Frank Batteas, Associate Director for Flight Operations at NASA Dryden, was in the co-pilot’s seat when the first Air Force C-17 Globemaster III flight test aircraft flew out of Edwards Air Force Base for retirement at the National Museum of the Air Force in Dayton, Ohio, April 23.

“I’m fortunate to be a part of this great aircraft and its development since the beginning,” Batteas said. “It’s a fitting tribute to the designers, engineers, maintenance and aircrew that this aircraft will reside at the Air Force museum for many people to enjoy. It has been my pleasure to fly and test this aircraft,” he added.

After he joined NASA Dryden, Batteas occasionally flew the aircraft on joint Air Force/NASA test missions. After completing the extensive C-17 flight test program, the T-1 aircraft supported many other flight and propulsion test programs for the Air Force, NASA and others. Joint efforts included noise mitigation, throttle-only and engine health management projects.

Most recently, the aircraft was used by the Air Force and NASA Dryden in partnership with NASA’s Glenn Research Center and Pratt & Whitney in accomplishing Phase 1 of the Vehicle Integrated Propulsion Research, or VIPR, project ground tests.

T-1 made its first flight on Sept. 15, 1991, when it was delivered to the Air Force Flight Test Center at Edwards Air Force Base, Calif., for testing. The aircraft was built by McDonnell Douglas (now part of Boeing) at the company’s plant in Long Beach, Calif.

This C-17, tail number 87-0025, was essentially hand-built for the sole purpose of developmental test and evaluation, with an estimated life span of five years. The aircraft was periodically refurbished as its lifespan grew from five to 21 years.

Joining Batteas on the flight crew for C-17 T-1’s last flight were Maj. Eric Bippert, commander; Maj. Charles Cain, pilot; and MSgt. Paul Varnish, loadmaster, all of the AFFTC’s 418th Flight Test Squadron. Loadmaster Gary Briscoe of Boeing rounded out the flight crew.

In addition to its role as a flight test aircraft, T-1 is also a Hollywood star. The aircraft appeared in country superstar Toby Keith’s Emmy Award-winning music video “American Soldier.” T-1 went on to appear in five motion pictures: “Transformers,” “Iron Man,” “Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen,” “Iron Man 2″ and the currently in production “Superman: Man of Steel.”


NASA Research Test Pilot Frank Batteas waves from the right-hand seat in the flight deck of U.S. Air Force C-17 No. 87-0025 as it prepared to fly off into retirement. The first C-17 built, it served for 21 years as a developmental flight test and research aircraft for both the Air Force and NASA.

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