U.S. Soldiers of the 82nd Airborne Division rub on camouflage paint prior to boarding a C-17 Globemaster III to conduct a static-line jump during exercise Panther Storm at Fort Bragg, North Carolina, July 26, 2017.
A C-17 Globemaster III from the 301st Airlift Squadron, 349th Air Mobility Wing, Travis Air Force Base, Calif., is refueled by a KC-10 Extender, July 20, 2017. The C-17 Globemaster III was conducting a local training mission in Northern California. (U.S. Air Force photo Louis Briscese)
Today, for the last time ever, Boeing technicians integrated the wings, fuselage, nose and tail of the final C-17 Globemaster III ever to be produced. I’ll recognize this bittersweet end of production by commemorating the prototype aircraft that started it all.
Just outside the West Gate of Edwards Air Force Base, California, rests an interesting aircraft, the McDonnell Douglas YC-15. This ship, #72-1875 was the first of only two YC-15 aircraft made for the Air Force’s Advanced Medium Short Takeoff and Landing Transport program (AMST).
On August 26, 1975, this YC-15 made its first flight from the McDonnell Douglas plant at Long Beach Airport, landing at Edwards Air Force Base (where she is displayed today). She would undergo flight test at Edwards, including a competitive fly-off against the Boeing YC-14. The YC-15 was later upgraded to become the McDonnell Douglas C-17 Globemaster III and the Boeing YC-14 would never go into production. Ironically, after a merger in 1997, the C-17 would be produced under the Boeing name.
After flight test, YC-15 #72-1875 was stored by the Aerospace Maintenance and Regeneration Center at Davis-Monthan Air Force Base, Arizona. She was transferred to the nearby Pima Air Museum in 1981 then went back into flying service in 1997 to fly test operations for C-17 program.
In 1998, the aircraft suffered a catastrophic engine failure and was forced to land at Air Force Plant 42 in Palmdale, California. She never flew again and was transferred up the road to her final home with the Air Force Flight Test Museum at Edwards. Her sister ship, YC-15 #72-1876 was destroyed at Davis-Monthan in 2012, making this the only existing YC-15.
Today is a sad day at the Long Beach plant that built this YC-15. C-17 production will soon stop, but the aircraft will continue to serve for decades, proudly flying in the California skies above our YC-15 prototype, and all over the world.
A 927th Air Refueling Wing KC-135 Stratotanker soars overhead after refueling a C-17 Globemaster III July 1, 2014. The C-17 relies on aerial refueling to complete long-distance missions. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Clayton Cupit/Released)
A C-17 Globemaster III flies over Biggs Army Airfield, Texas, during Bold Quest 15-2 operations Oct. 2, 2015. One main facet of Bold Quest was the integration of joint and coalition fire support assets across all warfighting domains. The Army and Air Force worked together to perform air-to-air, surface-to-air, and air-to-surface fire support engagements in live and digitally simulated missions. (U.S. Air Force photo/Airman 1st Class Emily A. Kenney)
U.S. Air Force Capt. Erica Stooksbury, a C-17 Globemaster III aircraft pilot with the 816th Expeditionary Airlift Squadron, adjusts the cockpit lighting controls in a C-17 over Iraq Aug. 30, 2014, after a humanitarian airdrop mission over Amirli, Iraq. Two C-17s dropped 79 container delivery system bundles of fresh drinking water, or 7,513 gallons. Two C-130 Hercules aircraft dropped 30 bundles, which contained 3,032 gallons of fresh drinking water and 7,056 meals, ready to eat. President Barack Obama authorized humanitarian aid deliveries to Iraq as well as targeted airstrikes to protect U.S. personnel from extremists known as the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant. U.S. Central Command directed the operations. (DoD photo by Staff Sgt. Vernon Young Jr./Released)
Airmen from the 315th Airlift Wing work to prepare a C-17 Globemaster III for an airdrop mission with Soldiers from the 82nd Airborne Division during exercise Crescent Reach 16 on May 26, 2016, at Joint Base Charleston, S.C. Crescent Reach is an annual exercise designed to test and evaluate Joint Base Charleston’s ability to mobilize and launch a large-scale aircraft formation in addition to training, processing and deploying Airmen and cargo in response to a simulated crisis abroad.
Operation United Assistance to support MSF/Doctors Without Borders and CDC.
 From left, Dr. Joel Montgomery, a team leader with the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, adjusts a colleague’s personal protective equipment before entering the Ebola virus treatment unit in Monrovia, Liberia, during United Assistance, a response to the 2014 West African Ebola outbreak. The outbreak also affected Sierra Leone, Guinea and Nigeria. The treatment unit was staffed and operated by members of Doctors Without Borders. United Assistance is a U.S. Army Africa-led operation to provide command and control, logistics, training and engineering support to the U.S. government’s efforts to contain the Ebola virus outbreak in West African nations. (DoD photo by Athalia Christie, CDC, 17 SEP 2014.)
 U.S. Navy Lt. j.g. Aaron Kulp, standing, the officer in charge of Naval Mobile Construction Battalion (NMCB) 133, Combined Joint Task Force-Horn of Africa, speaks to a group of Seabees before a flight at Camp Lemonnier, Djibouti. Fifteen Sailors with NMCB-133 were to travel to Monrovia, Liberia, to conduct site surveys, construct a $22 million hospital and stockpile it with supplies to support training health care workers in support of United Assistance. United Assistance is a U.S. Army Africa-led operation to provide command and control, logistics, training and engineering support to the U.S. government’s efforts to contain the Ebola virus outbreak in West African nations. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Leslie Keopka, 19 SEP 2014.)
[3,4] A U.S. Air Force C-17 Globemaster III aircraft sits in Liberia. The aircraft delivered the first shipment of U.S. military equipment and personnel for United Assistance, a U.S. Army Africa-led operation to provide command and control, logistics, training and engineering support to the U.S. government’s efforts to contain the Ebola virus outbreak in West African nations. The cargo included a heavy-duty forklift, a drill set, a generator, engineers and airfield specialists. (DOD photo by U.S. Embassy in Monrovia, 24 SEP 2014.)
Overhead view of a Royal Australian Air Force KC-30A multirole tanker connecting with a U.S. Air Force C-17 Globemaster III from the 418th Flight Test Squadron at Edwards Air Force Base, Calif., Feb. 10, 2016. (U.S. Air Force photo/Christian Turner)