Report: Senator presses for ‘commercial’ C-17s

Report: Senator presses for ‘commercial’ C-17s

Y’know what you need? A C-17. You could take your friends for a ride, or set up a one-jet airline flying between Butte and Crested Butte, or turn your cargo bay into an apartment and just roam from airport to airport, solving crimes.

Only you can’t, because the mean old Federal Aviation Administration evidently won’t give the green light to a commercial version of Boeing’s flagship cargo plane. That’s why Missouri Sen. Claire McCaskill is urging the FAA to do whatever it takes to endorse a non-military version of the Globemaster III so Boeing can keep building them:

In an effort to create manufacturing jobs and bolster the state economy, Sen. Claire McCaskill is urging the Federal Aviation Administration to quickly certify a commercial version of the C-17 aircraft, manufactured in St. Louis.

This week, Missouri’s senior senator sent a letter to the acting head of the FAA, Michael Huerta, asking that the agency allow Boeing to begin producing a variant of the long-time military aircraft for commercial use.

“This certification would support the jobs of hundreds of Missourians who produce parts for and assemble the C-17,” said McCaskill, a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee.

And there’s the rub. Plus it’s cheaper and easier for Boeing to try to keep alive this product in a different form than shut everything down, lay everybody off, and try to design a new airplane for potential clients of a big, four engine, wide-body cargo plane. Boeing and the Air Force have been talking about commercial versions or applications for C-17s for years, and there are a few examples of where they’ve succeeded:

Here’s an AvWeek post about a ‘commercial’ C-17 painted in the livery of the government-operated Qatar Airways. And back in the day, the Air Force studied the potential benefits of unleashing commercial C-17 on the world logistics network, estimating it could save billions by relying more on commercial support and less on its own military airlifters. That system did not materialize, but service officials could dust off those old reports if anyone asks them for an opinion as to whether there should be commercial C-17s.

McCaskill’s and Boeing’s odds of getting their wish weren’t clear Monday, nor was it clear how much time and rigmarole would be involved with an FAA concession here. But Boeing’s bid is a clear signal that it and possibly other big players in the defense game could begin to look outside the military world altogether as they try to survive the big crunch. The problem is, what other products would even have a chance of being adopted outside the armed forces? What do you think?

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It requires FAA certification but I could see the fire scout or or VTOL drone or even just predators being bought up in droves. A VTOL or fixed wing high endurance ISR capability would be a boon for law enforcement since helicopters are very expensive to maintain and have limited endurance.

There should be no way around getting FAA certification, no matter the status and power of the requestor. I expect this is just the Senator’s plea to find the money to do it. It is a big job to show compliance, even if the aircraft requires no modifications. To date, the business case for such an effort was not compelling. There are some commercial C-130 (L-100?) operators out there for a business model, but I do not think there are many aircraft. In any case the ones I am aware of rely on special government business, not commercial cargo. Nope, I don’t buy it. This is an attempt by the Senator to curry favor while fully aware of the inevitable outcome.

You may be giving the Senator too much credit if you believe that he actually understands the “inevitable outcome”! :-) The air freight companies seem to think that the freighter versions of commercially certificated aircraft are more than adequate for MOST uses, and I suspect that a commercial C-17, just as the nominally commercial AN-124s would need to make a living hauling a very limited number of outsized, very heavy and awkward cargos. With the Antonovs already out there to take on the small number of necessary payloads it might not be very profitable.

Even if there was an FAA certified commercial version, without significant government support, would any commercial carrier even be interested?

Looking at the Ruslan International website, it says they have 17 aircraft currently, so I would estimate the market for a commercial C-17 to be no greater than 17 aircraft, and realistically the Antonovs would probably still be available for a lower price to those looking to move freight and also not accounting for the fact that I believe new build C-17’s would be more reliable than the Antonovs, meaning a smaller number could do the job.

I think Claire’s time would be more effectively spent promoting the Super Hornet and Eagle, which have much greater Missouri work share than the C-17.

Giving Madame Senator Claire McCaskill too much credit would be very easy. Yes Boeing Defense is headquartered in Missouri but it is primarily built in Southern California. Maybe Missouri will get lucky and have her find that California that needs a Boeing Senator more than Missouri.

Boeing probably just needs the quick Commercial Cert so that it can stop buying tranport for its outsize cargo on Anatovs. Expecially when it wants to move its custom tools out of Wichita for Air Force 1.

Now THAT would be embarassing.… Boeing leasing an Antonov aircraft to haul the aircraft construction tooling out of Wichita! If it happens Id bet the big Russky lands at dusk and is airborne again before the sun rises! LOL!

Seriously, there are the Antonov’s, the SuperGuppy, and the Airbus A300-600ST monster for hauling big (but relatively lightweight) payloads, and the Antonov certainly capable of lifting the heavy ones as well. Not sure that there is even “room” in that market for another competitor.

It’s amusing to think that there are hundreds of C-17 operating, flying thousands of hours every year, and yet the type can’t be FAA certified.

Boeing owns their own large cargo aircraft for moving Dreamlifter parts already (747-400LCF), but regardless, they’d be much more likely to move anything they need out of Wichita by train or truck, it’s not like they’re likely to be moving such items overseas for their own use (insert joke about selling tooling to Chinese here if you like). In all seriousness, if they sold some large toolings from Wichita to overseas buyers, it would be sold FOB Wichita and the buyer’s problem to get it out of Wichita, not Boeing’s.

the C-17 has been certified by the FAA. However, the certification being requested is actually to certify existing C-17s that will be classified a surplus aircraft. What is being requested in an exemption to a time consuming process that would certify that the A/C are in fact still safe to be use commercially.
I believe the plan would then be to sell off a number of the initial block of 70 C-17As.All of this is nothing new. This has been an ongoing for around seven years.

No airline would use one but to open the door for PMCs or Defense contractors to get them this may be the reason to open commercial sales for the C-17.

Are you sure about the certification? I know that the engines are FAA approved, but… the rest of the A/C as well? If so, and there were no engineering changes required to obtain FAA certification, then, Im thinking, by default the previous A/C would be certified. .… whether surplussed or not.

On basically re-certification, I’m just going by what I read. Of course as just some grunt that used to fall out of perfectly good A/C, I may be misinterpreting what I read

The obcious answer to marketablity of this consept is logistics, period. Notwithstanding the Qatari aircraft, which is actually operated as part of the Qatari governemt and knows no limits to logistic expenses, any commecial air freight operator will be hard-pressed to readily acquire AOG parts for this aircraft when the need arises. Unless there is a huge fleet introduced into the commercial sector, this is a DOA political pipe-dream that has obvious short-sighted roots in the shallow mind of a vested legislator.

Dont think that its ACTUALLY been certified, at best its been “waived” from the certification requirements. As far as I know, on the Qatari’s have one even painted in civilian colors in spite of all of the attempted sales over the last 10 years or so.


Colleagues: A bit of information to add to the discussions. The responses thus far are demonstrative of an atypical level of critical thinking.

We did deem it appropriate to give the Senator a nod…

Best and Cheers,

If you can make an honest business case out of hauling outsized cargos, to out of the way places, for commercial customers, in BC-17s, more power to you! I think it would be a great asset to have a fleet of CRAF-ready C-17s, but the cost of operating, and competition for the limited number of payloads, even with the CRAF subsidies, would seem to be a non-starter.

If you are convinced, my vote would be to “go for it”, and hopefully your carefully laid plans dont turn into SciFi! :-) I’ll buy stock in your SECOND profitable year! LOL!

Isn’t there a US law that contractors cannot sell items/parts for DoD funded projects for less than the price the USG is charged?

I could see that being a disincentive to any commercial operator considering buying a military transport . Who wants to pay $200 for a helical-drive torsion effectuator, ie; a bolt

If the presumed law exists, that is…

There is no doubt the C-17 can be certified as a commercial freighter.

The market currently has no niche for a commercial C-17, either financially, functionally or logistically. The AN-124 parked at Brussels airport, as well as others around the world, that are sitting for weeks waiting for outsized loads, including the gigantic AN-144, do not justify their existence other than they operate in extremely cut-rate conditions that barely pass FAA and CAA safety standsards. Otherwise, a commercial C-17 would have been certified long ago and the parallel production line would likely already exist. It’s merely political hypebole and window dressing and does not constitute even the minimal requirements of an RFP.

Why wouldn’t UPS, or Fedex be interested in this? Just asking.

This is not the first time that Boeing sought to sell commercial versions of the C-17. I remember them coming up with some marketing materials (brochures, pictures) back in the late 90’s. I don’t think there was much interest in it at the time. Probably because of the operating cost.

UPS or FedEx wouldn’t, because of operating costs.

BUT, there’s a notable global market for outsize cargo transport by air. Most of that is currently filled by charters, using ex-military AN-124s. but the overall market is growing. There are also industries like mining etc., who need an aircraft that can carry large,heavy items into remote, short airfields. That’s the C-17; its capability in that area is unique.

I agree the market is questionable, i.e. are the Globemasters economical? I don’t know. An AN-124 is great, because of its size but it is encumbered by a bare floor with very few tiedown options. I worked deployments for the Army, and we kept those things busy because Air Mobility Command couldn’t keep up with inter-theater lift requirements. The C-17 has the NATO 463L floor system with full-service cargo stations and an integral load planning station. I don’t think the Russians did any such planning. They would look at our balanced load plan and then cram the cargo in any way they saw fit. It would be ironic if we started contracting commercial Globemasters considering we operate so many of them. A surge capability I suppose.

Wow, that is quite a propaganda piece, errr, I mean, press release. In particular, the link to Wikipedia helps establish the level of credibility of its content.

Pork barrel politics from the Democrat who accused former administrations of the same?

And back in the day, the Air Force studied the potential benefits of unleashing commercial C-17 on the world logistics network, estimating it could save billions by relying more on commercial support and less on its own military airlifters.

Read more: http://​www​.dodbuzz​.com/​2​0​1​2​/​0​1​/​2​3​/​r​e​p​o​r​t​-​s​e​n​a​tor–
Must be from the same people that less servicepersonnel are cheaper than more contractors. Spin the num bers and they will believe anything. Contractors make way more the service personnel, so who are they kidding about saving the taxpayer money. No one.

Why not build a commercial version. Profitability would be Boeing’s concern

Keeping the C17 in production for new military aircraft , then surplussing older ones for the nitch market would make scene just as L/M did with C130 Hercules which had a commercial variant too.
How long will the aging Russian aircraft last? Many of them have long hours & years already
The C17 market could be better configured payloads then the mega lifters, but C17 does shine for airfields that are not thousands of feet in length.
To lower the cost for military and civilian check the specifications for parts. We revised specifications on Space Shuttle launch & processing parts/ systems to be realistic on safety while reducing cost. We also revise some of the flight parts to still be safe & be reasonable about Specification.
Constellation had its challenges for underfunded program, but was making progress. Program continued to improve specification which would have been a good learning program and maintain the US space industry as promised before election rather then ending human US Space launch industry after the election . This end of US space program cost tens of jobs thousands nationwide with many small companies losing a piece of their business. Then there is innovation that the space program created too. Out sourcing US human launch & recovery to Russia and others provides billions to them but does not help the USA. X program is OK in some ways but not as a sole solution. Maintaining a strong US aerospace industrial skill set and jobs is important at a time when taxes , extreme regulations , unbalanced labor organizations drive more industry out of the USA. The Submarine industry received skill retention contracts for their jobs.
Believe C17 and US space program should receive a fair share too. For the trillions spent in the last few years, we could have maintained these industries too, which would better protect the USA and GROW the economy which provide taxes in a good way. Victor Dahlquist

Precisely the point behind a lot of the discussion here, even if unsaid. If there really was a buck to be made, do you not think that Boeing and all of the air freight operations would be all over this one? Minimal to no R&D, tooling in place, supply line established, ready, set, GO!

To make money on producing and (commercially) flying more C(BC)-17s, I think that all of the “guys in the know”, and even the good Senator from Missouri, understand that it will cost some form of government subsidy. The question would be where else within the aerospace/defense domain could that “subsidy” be spent.

Pshaw! Do you really expect more than the highest grade of hypocracy in todays politics?

This is a very good point. First you sell the C-17 to commercial operators. Then you ditch Air Mobility Command because “the commercial market can provide the service”. Then you transfer paratrooper airlift to the Army and get rid of the USAF.


Boeing built a cargo version of the 747 which is being used by several freight haulers. I believe if there was a demand for the C17 Boeing would have already started the paperwork to begin production.

Very true! And those freighter 747s share all of the existing worldwide logistics infrastructure that nominally supports their passenger variant cousins.

And you do in fact hit the nail on the head in your second statement. The ONE thing that a C-17 derrivative would bring to the table would be its “short field / rough field” capablity, and that particular sub-niche is already occupied by the big Antonovs that I believe I read can deliver a full blown oil drilling rig to any place with a few thousand meters of unprepared and semi-flat frozen steppe! Given the very high floatation landing gear on the Antonovs, that would be a real hard nut to crack.

Think that we could also contract out the pocket-rocket business out of N. Dakota? LOL!

I believe they’d love to have a roll-on/roll-off airship. Just an opinion.

If there was a market and a demand for a commercial C-17, it would already would have been done!!!

Why should the DoD or the U.S Government subsidize such a venture???

Let the markets speak for themselves!!!

This sounds like a job for POTUS ! It clearly makes WAY to much sense, which is why a joint Defense Appropriations Committee bill mandates the FAA to allow Boeing at least the opportunity to develop a civilian prototype of the C-17 for the FAA’s evaluation.
Think of the cost in aviation fuel alone over the lifetime of the airframe. Air Force maintenance crews who retire or leave their military jobs can then become highly sought after air line employees with WAY more experience than there civilian counterparts.
The global market alone would make this a no-brainer !

So a U.S. Senator from Missouri (where Boeing Military has a large presence) who is running for reelection this year and is considered to be extremely vulnerable and easy to beat, is pressing the FAA to certify a civilian version of the C-17 even though from that article it appears that neither Boeing nor any potential civilian customers have asked her to (and notwithstanding the fact that the airplane is built in Long Beach, CA). Smacks of political opportunism. “Look at me! I’m trying to create jobs!”

They can buy 747’s cheaper.

There is a market and it is occupied almost solely by the Antonovs.

The DoD cannot “endorse any aircraft type, manufacturer, or operator”. This is what Alan Estevez
Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Logistics and Material Readiness had to say just ten days before the DoD and Pres. Obama endorsed the sale of 10 C-17’s to India. They will not sell to an American company. Even Boeing was against selling in the U.S. We are talking about jobs for Vets to fly and maintain these aircraft.

Boeing needs the commercial cert quickly in order to underwrite the delay in 787 delivery and the fueler fiasco. They need the cash in order to remain competitive with Airbus. It is way easier to sell C-17’s than to create an entirely new freighter, there is an obvious market, particularly in India and other near east and SA.

It is quite obvious that many of those commenting are unaware of the realities of the situation. Going back 10+ years to the reviews based on the CAMAA study, the follow on CLRCAMAReport, and the USDOC report of NOV 2005, many comments have been written and with varying opinions and conclusions.

Facts are from a strategic, rather than tactical view, the US-GOVT, militar and civilian requirements for the BC-17 / C-17 (civilian) are important for the future. The heavy lift market is increasing, however the AN-124F fleet is now on the age decline curve and frankly in the mid-life crisis of most being 30-year old aircraft and 40-year old design. Whereas the C-17 is smaller, it is more reliable and by extension also more capable — although it can carry approx. 75–80% of the size/weight of the AntonovDesignBureau (Russian and Ukrainian) AN-124F aircraft.

Sen. MaCaskill remarks may be politically motivated, however there is a matter of truism. If a civilian fleet of BC-17 aircraft are not certified by the FAA, and no other (known replacement) means comes to market, it will be an interesting scenario in 5–10 years when the commercial clients find themselves unable to provide air lift necessary to support the oil/gas, mining, aerospace, aircraft, etc. industries that depend on such means… much less military CRAF requirements, emergency / AID, NGO, PVO, and other foreign governments who rely upon the same AIR LIFT methods/madness for their requirements!

Boeing and AirBus/EADS have been locked in their own fights with the WTO, however the reality is that today, if the BC-17 is not certified, and no commercial variant/private company comes to the table, it will be interesting to hear the naysayers again in 2020 (or earlier)!

Oh Please! What a load of Disinformation.
Canadian Globemaster (CG) submitted a Fully COMPLIANT reply to the Canadian C-17 ACAN Farce in 2006 using both an interim BC-17XM foreign military FAA-Certifiable ver (4 for DND, and 2 pre-prod for CG) + BC-17X Commercial ver (2 for CG — that adds up to 200% of what DND wanted, with interim leased USAF C-17s meeting the IOC), plus additional BC-17XMs for the RAF — and thus Exceed Boeings Demand for Minimum-startup 10 BC-17 with the Certification process Paid for by CG. (BC-17XMs in exchange for ex-RAF C-130Js to meet the SOIQ For which Govt of Canada (GoC) did not even recognize our SOIQ response, WTH! — even though an overhauled zero-houred ex-RAF C-130J is still a C-130J) and were ILLEGALLY Disqualified by GoC on All counts for the C-17 ACAN — even though 95% similar, WTH! Shame on GoC!! When we appealed, they managed to get Boeing to Disingenuously pull support for their own BC-17 (just 2 days before Congress approved 10 Unrequested USAF C-17s) on the basis of our late-2002 exhaustive BC-17X proposal, not the 2006 BC-17XM ACAN submission — and basically cut our legs out from under our appeal. WTF! 2 totally unrelated proposals. Boeing & GHH sure sound anxious to have a Profitable BC-17X Completely paid for by US Taxpayers. Note some $142.3 Million to-date in 5 USAF contracts (Umbrella Contract FA8106-07-C-0001) since April 2007 thru Dec 2010 è to support research and development, aircraft modifications, aircraft maintenance and technical services for Boeing commercial derivative military use aircraft è — even though prior US Legislation states this is Prohibited and therefore ILLEGAL!

For less developed areas, like Alaska and northern Canada, South America, Africa, and moving outsized cargo overseas, a commercial C17 would have a market. One would not need specialized docks or offloading equipment beyond a forklift. Dirt runways would be no problem. There is nothing out there that is not ex-Russian military aircraft.
If the military would back the certifications, there are many military to civilian conversion that could be made.
The miltiary would then have a viable fleet of civil/militiary usable transports at every level of need.
We need to keep the C17 production line viable.

The Russians have junk that is not certificated for any U.S. carrier. How is that a comparison?
Try to buy a Shorts SD7-30 (C23 Sherpa, military designation). Civilian versions are high time and in short supply. Shorts is not building new Sherpas.
A 747–200-400 freighter will not get in an out of where a civilian C17 could.
As to civilian L1020 Hercs, they are used all over the world, but are specialized aircraft with limited cabin height. Military vehicles are made to fly in existing miltiary aircraft, civilian heavy equipment is another matter.
A C17 would haule a D8R, maybe even a D9R, if the cabs on the cats was removed and the tracks. Today, there is nothing that one could use to airlift that size of dozer, except an AN76.
The Russians are smart, they envison dual military civil use, and it is cheaper quantity wise to build for both.

Ok I am not an athority on anything, but what is the difference between the hummer, bell jet ranger, the sky crane, boeing 707, KC10, the jeep and all the other cross overs between military and civilian. put the word out if there is an interest in a civilian version of the C17 work with them. This could be a double decker airliner like the Airbus, refit it with fuel economical engines or even ETOPS with 2. Fedex, UPS, DHL maybe interested if they thought they could get this amazing Aircraft, I mean they all fly 747s and this one does not need to be converted.

“Obama endorsed the sale of 10 C-17’s to India. They will not sell to an American company.”

To the Indian GOVERNMENT. Not to a cargo carrier in India. And the DOD has to sign off on an a sale of military technology to another foreign military under law. But don’t let the facts get in the way of your argument.

“We are talking about jobs for Vets to fly and maintain these aircraft.”

Ok, and with the looming pilot shortage and projected growth of US airlines we’ll also have jobs for veterans to fly and maintain aircraft. Just out of curiosity, how large do you think the pool is of qualified C-17 pilots and mechanics?

“Ok I am not an athority on anything, but what is the difference between the hummer, bell jet ranger, the sky crane, boeing 707, KC10, the jeep and all the other cross overs between military and civilian”

The difference is with those variants, they were all developed as civilian airframes first. The C-17 is a low cycle design. As was stated on another website, the 747F are designed to fly 4 times the number of cycles as the C-17,

United flied C-17’s commercially, don’t they?

ROTFLMAO! You answered your own question! Fedex, UPS, DHL and such are quite happy with their 747s and Airbuses. If they are happy, why switch unless there are clear economic reasons. The TWO possible justifications for using a C-17 over a freighter version of a commercial aircraft are the rough field landing capability of the C-17 and its ability to carry very large items (in the case of the C-17 up to the size of an M1A1!). The commercial freight carriers dont operate into rough airfields and dont ship things as big and bulky as an M1A1! They also enjoy the fact that every airport in the world that receives and services passenger airliners can receive and service their aircraft. AND as another poster noted, the “cycle” issue is very real for a carrier whos aircrraft is designed fly on a daily basis (or multiple flights on a given day) vs once per week or so for the military transport. Every takeoff and landing is a “pressurization cycle” and each cycle takes a bit of fatigue life. The designed fatigue life more or less defines the point in time where the A/C will have to be retired; the longer the better if you happen to be paying the bills!

If there were really any serious commercial customers for an FAA-certified C-17 do you honestly think that Boeing would not be all over that given the imminent turndown in their military contracts? As for the availability of freighter aircraft, consider for a moment the backlog of orders for Boeing freight-configured aircraft! http://​active​.boeing​.com/​c​o​m​m​e​r​c​i​a​l​/​o​r​d​e​r​s​/​i​n​dex.…

It just does not make sense for MOST commerial concerns to sign on for a new design aircraft without the logistics tail already in place unless it offers NEEDED capabilities beyond what can be obtained from the commercial variants! What does the C-17 offer that they actually need?

It s a good idea.… if the operationnal cost and the price of the plane is less than an 747 cargo. C 17 can carry more than the 747 cargo so i think it s possible…

Ok, so what’s the difference between militarizing a 767 and demilitarizing a C-17 for commercial use. DOD has done that on numerous occasions (707 — KC135, DC-10 — KC-10, etc…) the taxpayer has benefitted by leveraging the MILLIONS of Industry funded R & D and engineering. Oftentimes DOD MANDATES that Intellectual Property be handed over to them so they can outsource to companies so they don’t become “Vendor-Locked”. In reality, what happens is the small company who hires the most influential (yet not recently involved in aquisition) military leader gets the work and screams that the big company isn’t playing fair. This type of parasitism/cronyism is more sickening than a big company getting bigger. The only irony is that eventually the small company gets too big and the old retirees die off and the company dies in a vacuum.

You think a VTOL would be cheap? And what role would a plane fill that a helicopter couldn’t for law enforcement?

Sounds alot like a plea trying to corner both Big Business and Union donations into the Madame Senators coffers.

I have to disagree with you on keeping the C-17 in production for the US military. Why keep it in production? The Air Force’s initial requirements for C-17s was met, and then more were made per Congress. There is only so much ramp space available out there, especially if there is another round of BRAC (highly unlikely in my opinion because military bases bring in money).

I could see a SINGLE C-17 moving outsized cargo similarly to the cargo moved in Ice Road Truckers. However, a C-17 costs over $200 million (civilian version maybe less, maybe more), and costs roughly $20,000 an hour to fly. You would also need the associated costs (maintenance, fuel, crews, ramp space, etc) and fields for it to operate out of.

The C-17 was designed with one mission in mind: transport a combat ready M1 battle tank to a 3000 foot long strip, backup, offload, and takeoff in that same space. The C-17 does this very very well, but doesn’t do it quickly, or efficiently (wings designed for slow approaches don’t make for best cruising).

If there really was a great pressing need for over-sized cargo planes capable of operating out of austere airfields, there would already be those on the market. Also, whenever there IS a civilian need for transport of oversized cargo to austere airfields (Haitian humanitarian effort), military C-17s were used.

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