YOUNGSTOWN AIR RESERVE STATION, Ohio --
Water in a glass starts to shake as an unfamiliar rumble passes overhead. Residents run out of the house only to catch a glimpse of an aircraft unlike the ones they’re used to seeing.
Youngstown Air Reserve Station has been flying various models of the C-130 Hercules aircraft since 1979. Mahoning Valley residents have been born and raised beneath the familiar shadow and roar.
Over the past couple of months, a larger aircraft called the C-17 Globemaster III has been spotted on a regular basis, raising questions among local communities.
On Sept. 2, 2020, news agencies from YARS’s surrounding communities and a reporter from a Pittsburgh newspaper attended a media event on the 910th Airlift Wing’s flightline to get the word out that the C-17s and their Reserve Citizen Airmen aircrews have been making short flights into the local area to utilize Mahoning Valley airspace and Youngstown-Warren Regional Airport’s runways for flight training.
The 911th Airlift Wing out of Pittsburgh Air Reserve Station, Pennsylvania, has been utilizing the Mahoning Valley airspace for years. Until recently their C-130s have blended in with the 910th’s; however, PARS is undergoing an aircraft conversion from C-130s to the C-17s.
“Our uncongested air space allows the aircrews from Pittsburgh and several other Air Force units to come to our area and train as needed,” said Senior Master Sgt. Bob Barko Jr., 910th Airlift Wing public affairs superintendent and community engagement chief. “As you can imagine, our Air Force aircraft would have to wait their turn amongst the heavy commercial airline traffic to use the runways at much busier airports like Pittsburgh International. Here they can use the airspace and airfield at will. It’s win-win. It increases their mission readiness and continues to build the military value of YARS.”
The C-130H Hercules aircraft, though it may seem large, is the smallest and most versatile cargo-aircraft in the Air Force. According to the U.S. Air Force fact sheet library, the C-130’s wingspan is 132 feet 7 inches compared to the C-17’s wingspan of 169 feet 10 inches, a difference of over 37 feet. From nose to tail, the C-17 is 174 feet compared to the C-130’s length of 97 feet 9 inches, a difference of over 77 feet. To put the difference in perspective, many semi-trailers on American roads today are between 28 feet and 53 feet long.
“Both Aircraft have important roles to play in the overall airlift mission,” said Barko. “I like to think of the C-130 as the pickup truck of the Air Force, the C-17 is more like a semi-truck.”
A C-130 has a cargo compartment that is 9 feet high, 41 feet long and 10 feet 3 inches wide, with a max payload of 42,000 pounds. A C-17’s cargo compartment is 12 feet 4 inches high, 88 feet long and 18 feet wide, with a max payload of 170,900 pounds. The sheer size differences in aircraft can skewer the appearance of the height at which they are flying.
“All aircraft operating in our local airspace do so according to Federal Aviation Administration, or FAA, standards. This includes flying at or above minimum AGL, or Above Ground Level,” said Barko. “Our C-130s appear to be much lower to the ground than they actually are because they are a big plane. The C-17 is an even bigger plane. The Air Force men and women flying these planes are training to conduct missions for the National Defense, and they do it repeatedly and safely so their cargo can be delivered on time, on target, every time, anywhere in the world.”
The C-17 is a jet-powered strategic airlifter rather than a turboprop like the C-130. This significantly changes the sound and pitch residents may hear.
“The 911th Airlift Wing completes a conversion status in early 2021, transitioning from a C-130 mission to a C-17 mission. Air Force requirements exist for aircrews to train to maintain their flight currencies,” said Col. John Boccieri, the vice commander of the 911th AW and previously part of the 910th AW’s Commander Action Group. “The distance away from regional C-17 bases imposes excess costs and lost training time for our aircrews. The ability to come here to train mitigates these issues and continues to build a mutually beneficial partnership for these two outstanding Air Force Reserve units.”
Notably, the C-17 is not the largest cargo aircraft in the Air Force inventory, that title goes to the C-5M Super Galaxy with a wingspan of 222 feet 9 inches, length of 247 feet 10 inches, height of 65 feet 1 inch and a maximum payload of 281,001 pounds. It’d be guaranteed to rattle more than a glass of water on a rare visit to YARS.