C-17 Casts First Big Shadow at Travis
Globemaster Makes Debut at Base Amid Much Hoopla
By Ian Thompson
TRAVIS AIR FORCE BASE - More than two years of waiting ended Tuesday when the newest addition to Travis Air Force Base's aircraft arsenal arrived amid much celebration.
"All the efforts have been worth it," said C-17 Globemaster pilot Maj. Rick Tubbs of all the training, construction and organization at Travis in preparation for its newest aircraft.
Travis' first C-17 Globemaster III landed flawlessly, accompanied by the cheers and applause of a host of Air Force servicemembers and local community leaders.
"What a magnificent day! Travis is again making its mark," said Maj. Gen. Thomas Kane, who flew the C-17 past the crowds, landed it and taxied in with flags flying from above the cockpit.
The Spirit of Solano is the first of 13 C-17s slated to arrive at Travis over the next year. Travis' active-duty and Air Force Reserve C-17 flying squadrons, formed earlier, have been flying other bases' C-17s.
"Twelve more will be arriving at Travis between now and next June," Boeing Vice President Dave Bowman said.
It is the second Spirit of Solano to call the base home. The first was a B-52 Stratofortress bomber, the first of its kind at Travis in the late 1950s.
The C-17 was added to the Air Force transport fleet in 1993 and has logged more than a million flight hours carrying military cargo, transporting wounded and flying humanitarian relief missions all over the world.
Acting 349th Air Mobility Wing commander Col. Robert Millman described the C-17 as "America's spirit and industry at its best."
This arrival gives Travis a third type of aircraft in addition to the C-5 Galaxy transport and the KC-10 Extender air tanker.
"This will make Travis an all-inclusive air mobility location," 60th AMW commander Col. Steve Arquiette said, adding that Travis is now the only Air Force base with three major types of aircraft stationed there.
"It is a major countrywide accomplishment that is long in the coming," Fairfield Mayor Harry Price said. "The concerted efforts by the cities, the county and the Travis Consortium resulted in a great victory for Solano County today."
Price said local leaders have to continue to work to continue to increase the number of missions at Travis - for example, to convince Washington, D.C., to move the Coast Guard C-130 detachment to Travis from what was once McClellan Air Force Base in Sacramento.
"A lot has been done, but a lot more needs to be done," Price said.
The C-17s' arrival will make up for the shrinkage of Travis' C-5 fleet. Half of the three dozen C-5s on the base were transferred elsewhere and two of the C-5 squadrons reorganized as C-17 squadrons.
The base spent the last two years getting ready for the C-17s, undertaking 18 military construction projects worth more than $180 million to put up buildings and put in infrastructure that will support the aircraft.
Travis also formed the 860th and 945th Aircraft Maintenance Squadrons to keep the aircraft flying.
Local leaders lobbied long and hard to bring the C-17s to Travis, using that move as part of their arsenal to keep Travis out of the recent round of base closures.
Their efforts to further expand the Air Force's C-17 fleet beyond 180 aircraft proved less successful, despite support from Congress to add another 42. Boeing recently told the Air Force it will begin shutting its C-17 production line down and tell its suppliers to stop sending parts.
The C-17s destined for Travis are among the last Globemasters Boeing will make, not counting C-17 orders for Canada, Great Britain and Australia.
Ellen Tauscher (D-Walnut Creek) and other Congressmembers have been fighting to keep the Boeing production line open and recently got $300 million to build three C-17s. She continues to push past Pentagon opposition to expand the fleet to see if Boeing can build more C-17s for NATO allies.
"We know we need more C-17s. The C-17 is undeniably the best airlift platform," Tauscher said of the heavy workload being put on Air Force transports. "It is also more affordable to keep the production line open than to shut it down and then have to start it up again."
The Spirit of Solano is not being allowed to rest on its laurels.
Sometime today, the C-17 is taking off for Europe and then somewhere in Southwest Asia to support American operations in Iraq.
Reach Ian Thompson at 427-6976 or at email@example.com.
To see an audio slideshow of Tuesday's events at Travis, visit www.dailyrepublic.com.
Arrival at Travis Air Force Base: Tuesday
Total scheduled for Travis: 13
Total in Air Force: 180
First Air Force C-17s: Began flying in 1993
Price tag of improvements at Travis to prepare: $180 million (approximately)
Wednesday, August 09, 2006
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