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)
American Air Force Colonel Joseph Kittinger, Jr. in free fall after jumping from ‘Excelsior III,’ a balloon-supported gondola 102,800 feet above New Mexico, August 16, 1960. The clouds beneath him are 15 miles away.