by Airman 1st Class Dilia DeGrego
305th Air Mobility Wing Public Affairs
9/16/2004 - MCGUIRE AIR FORCE BASE, N.J. (AFPN) -- The last two active-duty C-141B Starlifters in the U.S. Air Force inventory flew their final journey Sept. 16 after a special departure ceremony here.
This final flight marked the end of nearly 40 years of service to the nation by C-141s and their crews.
“If you look at the sum total of its history, it’s remarkable,” said Gen. John W. Handy, commander of U.S. Transportation Command and Air Mobility Command. “The C-141 has been the backbone of our airlift fleet for the better part of the Military Airlift Command and Air Mobility Command history. If you look at the performance of the C-141, the crews and maintainers who kept them flying are the most significant contribution of that weapons system.”
Lt. Gen. William Welser III, 18th Air Force commander, flew one of the two final aircraft with an aircrew from the 6th Airlift Squadron. Both aircraft will remain in permanent storage at the Aerospace Maintenance and Regeneration Center at Davis-Monthan Air Force Base, Ariz.
“As a previous commander of the Bully Beef Express, it is an honor to be part of the squadron transition from the venerable Starlifter to the [C-17] Globemaster III that will allow us to continue supporting our nation’s mobility needs,” General Welser said.
McGuire received its first C-141B, tail No. 65-0271, on Aug. 8, 1967. It was the first American purpose-built jet airlifter, and only the second all-jet transport aircraft to see service in the Military Airlift Command.
Flying countless missions over intercontinental distances for nearly 40 years, the Lockheed C-141A/B Starlifter was the backbone of American foreign policy.
“The C-141 brought airlift into the jet age,” said Lt. Col. Eric Wydra, 6th Airlift Squadron commander. “Before the C-141, our large airlifters were slow, propeller driven aircraft with limited range. The C-141 is a fast, flexible, intercontinental aircraft that could go just about anywhere -- and did.”
Before the ceremony, people toured a display of a C-141B. The display will later become permanent and the sole remaining C-141 here.
“The base will never be quite the same again; there will always be something missing,” said Tech. Sgt. Corinne Alvord, noncommissioned officer in charge of debrief and dispatch for the 305th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron. “It is the end of an era, but the beginning of a new one.”
Crews from two Air Force Reserve Command units, the 452nd AMW at March Air Reserve Base, Calif., and the 445th Airlift Wing at Wright-Patterson AFB, Ohio, will continue to fly the C-141 until the summer of 2006, when the last Starlifter is scheduled to retire. There were 284 Starlifters built for the Air Force between 1963 and 1968, and 20 aircraft remain in service.
“We've pushed it as far as the years would allow us; it’s performed incredibly well in just a terrific variety of missions,” General Handy said. “But now it's just time to retire our B models.” (Courtesy of AMC News Service)