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167th Airlift Wing ushers in new era with arrival of first C-17

MARTINSBURG, W.Va.-- The first C-17 Globemaster III arrived at the 167th Airlift Wing in Martinsburg, W. Va. on September 25th, 2014.  The wing has flown the C-5 Galaxy since 2007 and will begin C-17 flying operations in January 2015. The last C-5 unit in the Air National Guard, the 167th began the conversion process in July and will maintain a fleet of eight C-17s. (U.S. Air National Guard photo by Tech. Sgt. Michael Dickson/Released)

MARTINSBURG, W.Va.-- The first C-17 Globemaster III arrived at the 167th Airlift Wing in Martinsburg, W. Va. on September 25th, 2014. The wing has flown the C-5 Galaxy since 2007 and will begin C-17 flying operations in January 2015. The last C-5 unit in the Air National Guard, the 167th began the conversion process in July and will maintain a fleet of eight C-17s. (U.S. Air National Guard photo by Tech. Sgt. Michael Dickson/Released)

MARTINSBURG, W.Va.-- The first C-17 Globemaster III arrived at the 167th Airlift Wing in Martinsburg, W. Va. on September 25th, 2014.  The wing has flown the C-5 Galaxy since 2007 and will begin C-17 flying operations in January 2015. The last C-5 unit in the Air National Guard, the 167th began the conversion process in July and will maintain a fleet of eight C-17s. (U.S. Air National Guard photo by Tech. Sgt. Michael Dickson/Released)

MARTINSBURG, W.Va.-- The first C-17 Globemaster III arrived at the 167th Airlift Wing in Martinsburg, W. Va. on September 25th, 2014. The wing has flown the C-5 Galaxy since 2007 and will begin C-17 flying operations in January 2015. The last C-5 unit in the Air National Guard, the 167th began the conversion process in July and will maintain a fleet of eight C-17s. (U.S. Air National Guard photo by Tech. Sgt. Michael Dickson/Released)

MARTINSBURG, W.Va.-- The first C-17 Globemaster III arrived at the 167th Airlift Wing in Martinsburg, W. Va. on September 25th, 2014.  The wing has flown the C-5 Galaxy since 2007 and will begin C-17 flying operations in January 2015. The last C-5 unit in the Air National Guard, the 167th began the conversion process in July and will maintain a fleet of eight C-17s. (U.S. Air National Guard photo by Tech. Sgt. Michael Dickson/Released)

MARTINSBURG, W.Va.-- The first C-17 Globemaster III arrived at the 167th Airlift Wing in Martinsburg, W. Va. on September 25th, 2014. The wing has flown the C-5 Galaxy since 2007 and will begin C-17 flying operations in January 2015. The last C-5 unit in the Air National Guard, the 167th began the conversion process in July and will maintain a fleet of eight C-17s. (U.S. Air National Guard photo by Tech. Sgt. Michael Dickson/Released)

MARTINSBURG, W.Va.-- The first C-17 Globemaster III arrived at the 167th Airlift Wing in Martinsburg, W. Va. on September 25th, 2014.  The wing has flown the C-5 Galaxy since 2007 and will begin C-17 flying operations in January 2015. The last C-5 unit in the Air National Guard, the 167th began the conversion process in July and will maintain a fleet of eight C-17s. (U.S. Air National Guard photo by Tech. Sgt. Michael Dickson/Released)

MARTINSBURG, W.Va.-- The first C-17 Globemaster III arrived at the 167th Airlift Wing in Martinsburg, W. Va. on September 25th, 2014. The wing has flown the C-5 Galaxy since 2007 and will begin C-17 flying operations in January 2015. The last C-5 unit in the Air National Guard, the 167th began the conversion process in July and will maintain a fleet of eight C-17s. (U.S. Air National Guard photo by Tech. Sgt. Michael Dickson/Released)

MARTINSBURG, W.Va. -- Despite the rainy skies Thursday, a silver lining could be found by the West Virginia Air National Guard's 167th Airlift Wing with the arrival of its first C-17 Globemaster III.

The C-17, piloted by a crew assigned to the 164th Airlift Wing in Memphis, Tenn., touched down at Eastern West Virginia Regional Airport ushering in a new era for 167th Airmen.

"The C-17, it's a great airplane," said Col. Shaun Perkowski, commander of the 167th Airlift Wing. "It's got a great mission and it's got a great reputation. It is extremely valuable with everything that it can do."

Aboard the aircraft's inaugural flight to its new home were 24 Airmen from the 167th Maintenance Group to accept the aircraft. The 164th transitioned from the C-5A Galaxy to the C-17 Globemaster III last year as well.

With its reputation of being able to fulfill the United States' worldwide air mobility requirements, Perkowski said the arrival of the C-17 brings new opportunities for Airmen stationed at the Martinsburg base.

"Obviously C-17s [are] a vibrant weapons system, well supported," Perkowski said. "It is a great option and opportunity for the 167th."

"The opportunity to fly that airplane with its capabilities is exciting for all of us," he added.

The 167th is slated to receive seven more C-17 aircraft with the last expected to arrive in July 2015. In January a crew of 167th pilots and loadmasters will fly their first mission in the four-engine, T-tailed military transport aircraft. With the transition to the C-17, the 167th joins five other Air National Guard units who fly the aircraft, two of which are co-located at active duty bases.

According to Boeing website, maker of the 174-foot aircraft, the C-17 is considered a premier transporter for military, humanitarian and peacekeeping missions due to its ability to fly long distances and land in remote airfields in rough, land-locked regions. It can take off from a 7,600-foot strip of land, carry a payload of 160,000 pounds and land on 3,000 feet or less of small unpaved, paved airfield. 
  
The C-17 "can transport large equipment, supplies and troops directly to small airfields in harsh terrain anywhere in the world day or night. The massive, sturdy long-haul aircraft tackles distance, destination and heavy, oversized payloads in unpredictable conditions. It has delivered cargo in every worldwide operation since the 1990s," according to the aircraft's manufacturer.
   
Lt. Col. Lisa Windle, who is qualified to pilot the C-17 and assigned to the wing's training office, described the aircraft as "nimble" compared to flying the C-5.
 
When asked what she thought of the new aircraft she would be flying, Windle didn't have to think twice.
  
"I love it!" she said matter-of-factly.

"The C-17 is just fun to fly," Windle said. "It's what I would call a nimble aircraft so it adds a lot of enjoyment to flying that is a bit different then the C-5."
  
The C-17 pilot, who has accumulated just over 200 hours of flying in the aircraft, described it as "a flying, friendly airplane."   

"It is significantly different than flying the C-5," Windle said.

"I have every confidence that we will take on the new mission and the challenges and that we will eclipse what we've done in the C-5 and the C-130 world with the C-17," Perkowski said.

The commander's said he is certain that the wing's new mission will be "a huge benefit to the nation, to the state and to the local area here in Martinsburg."

"I am very excited about the future. I know that the members are excited to be moving to a weapons system with a strong future," he added.
  
The wing is scheduled to hold an official introduction of the C-17 to the unit Dec. 6.