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The Massive C-17 Can Fall Out Of The Sky (And its Intentional)

The C-17 can fly a descent profile that rivals the Space Shuttle’s descent rate on approach.

To the unfamiliar, the tactical descent of a massive C-17 Globemaster can look pretty scary. But it’s actually a permitted procedure for the airlifter. This video shows a Boeing C-17 Globemaster III doing one of its signature ‘moves’.

The Boeing C-17 has the ability to use its thrust reversers in flight. This means it can descend as fast as 20,000 feet per minute in a very controlled manner by redirecting the air flow of its engines up and forward to rapidly lose lift. A descent rate of 20,000 feet per minute is 8-10X greater than a typical airliner. Once the tactical descent is complete, the jet can rapidly configure and land…even on a dirt runway (semi-prepared).

About the C-17A Globemaster III

The Boeing C-17 Globemaster III is a large military transport plane, developed by McDonnell Douglas for the United States Air Force, between the 1980s and the early 1990s. It was designed to transport troops and cargo all over the world. Between 1991 and 2015, roughly 280 Boeing C-17 Globemaster III aircraft have been built, at a per unit cost of 218 million (flyaway cost as of 2007).

The C-17 took its first flight on September 15th of 1991, but design flaws were soon apparent in the wings of the plane. This meant further testing was needed. In late 1993, the Department of Defense gave the manufacturers two years to solve production problems. By 1994, the production still remained over budget. When all was said and done, delays in the creation of the Boeing C-17 Globemaster III ended up costing McDonnell Douglas 1.5 billion dollars.

Finally introduced to the United States Air Force on January 17th of 1995, the Boeing C-17 Globemaster III remains in service today. Its primary users are the United States Air Force (USAF), the Royal Air Force (RAF), the Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF), and the Indian Air Force.