McChord C-141 Starlifter and crew make final journey
News Release By Staff Sgt. A.C. Eggman - 62nd Airlift Wing Public Affairs Office
Age is a relative thing. Most people cannot retire until they are at least old enough to collect social security. But tail number 50267 is no ordinary “retiree.” The C-141B Starlifter bearing that tail number was retired from active service April 7, 2002 when a McChord crew headed by Col. Paul J. Selva, 62nd Airlift Wing Commander, Col. Thomas M. Gisler Jr., 446th Airlift Wing Commander, and Col. Michael Strouse, 62nd Operations Group Commander, flew the aircraft to Davis-Monthan Air Force Base, Ariz. With Selva at the controls, the aircraft lifted off from McChord at about 10:30 a.m. witnessed by a crowd of close to 750 people. Gisler landed the aircraft in Arizona almost five hours later. The landing was the last for a McChord C-141 and the 4th Airlift Squadron as a Starlifter squadron. Selva and Gisler paired up again on the return flight for the squadron’s first mission as a C-17 Globemaster III unit Wednesday. “The C-141 has carried our flag to every nation in the world,” said Selva to the well-wishers gathered before the departure. “You can measure your success in smiles.”
He went on to explain that the Starlifter has brought smiles to refugees by delivering relief supplies to them; to soldiers by bringing them home from war; to scientists in Antarctica on a medical airdrop; and to family members as their loved ones were brought home. McChord’s last Starlifter launched a few tears, not smiles, and received a deserving salute from the men and women of McChord. It will be warehoused with nearly 5,000 other aircraft at the Aerospace Maintenance and Regeneration Center at Davis-Monthan. An Air Force Material Command unit, AMARC is responsible for the storage of excess Air Force, Army, Coast Guard, Marine Corps, and Navy. AMARC is commonly referred to as the “Bone yard.” The center annually receives about 400 aircraft for storage and deploys about the same number for service as remotely controlled drones or sold to friendly foreign governments. Immediately after World War II, the Army’s San Antonio Air Technical Service Command established a storage facility for B-29 and C-47 aircraft at Davis-Monthan. The chief reasons for selecting Davis-Monthan as the site for this storage center were Tucson’s meager rainfall, low humidity, and alkaline soil. These conditions make it possible to store aircraft indefinitely with a minimum of deterioration and corrosion. In addition, the soil (called caliche) is hard, making it possible to park aircraft in the desert without constructing concrete or steel parking ramps.
The recently retired C-141 entered service during the Johnson administration, in 1965. The aircraft amassed nearly 47,000 flying hours during its 36 years of service. The C-141 participated in almost every operation and major exercise since the Vietnam War. It brought home prisoners of war and service men and women killed during combat. The Air Force stretched the Starlifter in 1981, to accommodate more cargo, and it also underwent modification to permit aerial refueling. The airlifter was in the sky over Grenada and Panama during those conflicts and flew more than 100 sorties in Operations Desert Shield and Storm. It flew Northern Pacific missions as well as supporting Air Force operations like those in Bosnia and the former Soviet Union. The Starlifter flew humanitarian missions for Operations Provide Promise and Provide Hope, as well as re-supplying American forces in Desert Scorpion I, II, and III.
McChord’s last Starlifter was readied for its final flight with just enough equipment to get it to Davis-Monthan. All non-essential survival equipment was removed. The aircraft will now go through a much more thorough process before it is parked. The process it went through before it left McChord included a lot of work and a little reminiscing. “I don’t have 4,000 hours on this aircraft,” said Selva. “And I didn’t spend the majority of my time flying it. But I do remember my first flight on it. It was the summer of 1967, and I was 9 years old living overseas with my family. The C-141 brought me home to the states. “I have jumped from a 141 and I have flown a 141 and I enjoyed every minute of it,” he said. “This is a chapter we close today, but the legacy of the C-141 lives on in each of you.”