Taylor Made: Only at Oshkosh
I returned to EAA’s AirVenture in Oshkosh, Wisconsin, this past July. Some of the planes in the airshows this year included two F-22 Raptors, an F-16 Fighting Falcon, a handful of C-47 Skytrains, two F7F Tigercats, an F8F Bearcat, an F4U Corsair, and several P-51 Mustangs, all as impressive as ever.
I also got to watch a few demonstrations of Boeing’s C-17 Globemaster III, a military transport aircraft known for its ability to land in a short distance on rough terrain. The C-17 has a wingspan of 169.8 feet, and its T-tail is 55 feet tall, or roughly five stories. It typically has a three-person flight crew, including the pilot, co-pilot, and loadmaster, and can cruise at a speed of 450 knots.
What sets the C-17 apart from other carriers is that it can perform semi-prepared runway operations. A typical semi-prepared runway is made of compacted composite that contains sand, gravel, and rocks. Takeoff and landing on these runways causes significant wear and tear from flying debris.
To give some perspective on its performance capabilities, let’s compare the C-17 to another Boeing aircraft, the 757-200. The C-17 is 174 feet long and has a required landing distance of 3,000 feet under max landing weight (MLW). The 757, used by many commercial airlines as well as some cargo companies, is 155 feet and has a required landing distance of 5,100 feet under MLW.
The C-17 can carry army vehicles two abreast, including the M-1 tank, or hold 102 soldiers. The 757 can carry 169 passengers, in two columns that each run three across, plus baggage. Here’s where the numbers differ: the 757’s MLW is 198,000 pounds. On a semi-prepared runway, the C-17’s MLW is 447,000 pounds, including a payload of 169,000 pounds. With that load, the C-17 can land in less than 3/5s of the 757’s required distance. In other words, the C-17 has the ability to change significantly higher inertia in less time.
The difference comes from the number of cells (aka engines); the C-17 has four to the 757’s two. Although the planes are somewhat similar in size, the C-17 has also been designed to be much more robust—it’s meant to experience stronger forces and larger changes in forces while operating in and maneuvering through rougher environments. Because of its design, it’s able to provide supplies, transport, and medical assistance in areas that are hard to reach by other planes of similar size.
I was most impressed with the C-17’s reverse thrust capability, demonstrated during the airshows. After landing, it could smoothly transition from deceleration to accelerating reverse motion over a short distance with virtually no complete stop in-between. It looked similar to if the plane had run itself into a giant elastic band that slowed it down and then sent it back the other way at much less acceleration.
Some stats from this year’s AirVenture:
- ~40,000 people camped out at the airport over the course of the week.
- More than 75,000 people attended the 1,500+ workshops, forums, and presentations.
- There were 2,979 show planes, including 377 warbirds.
- A record 2,714 visitors registered at the international tent, with the highest attendances from Canada, Australia, and South Africa.
- 601,000 people attended, setting a new record that’s nearly 2% higher than last year’s record.
What a year to be there!
Photo, at top by Taylor Tucker: The C-17's maneuverability was demonstrated at this year's AirVenture.