C-141 Starlifter: End of an Era

Eleven years ago today, the last C-141 Starlifter to go through programmed depot maintenance at the Warner Robins Air Logistics Center departed Robins Air Force Base. It was the end of a major workload at Robins that had employed thousands of workers for well over three decades.

C-141C Starlifter #65-0248 departs Robins Air Force Base following a ceremony to mark the end of C-141 programmed depot maintenance. (US Air Force photo by Sue Sapp)
C-141C Starlifter #65-0248 departs Robins AFB following a ceremony to mark the end of C-141 programmed depot maintenance.
(US Air Force photo by Sue Sapp)

Here are some excerpts from a 17 October 2003 Robins Rev Up article by Lanorris Askew “And then there were none”:

“On December 17, 1963, a star was born. On that date the prototype for the C-141 Starlifter made its maiden flight at Dobbins Air Force Base, Ga. Soon after, the first C-141 underwent maintenance 100 miles south at the Warner Robins Air Logistics Center (ALC), setting the scene for decades of quality workmanship. Two hundred eighty-four aircraft made 1,800 trips through the programmed depot maintenance line at Robins… and then there were none.

Thursday [16 October 2003], a historic takeoff signaled the end of an era for the Center’s C-141 program depot maintenance line as aircraft tail number 65-0248 took to the skies heading west.

During a farewell ceremony packed with bittersweet moments, Maj. Gen. Don Wetekam, Center commander, said how proud he is of what the C-141 workers have done this year. “What you all did here was magnificent, and I, for one—along with many other people around our Air Force—very much appreciate it.”

View of the ramp where the ceremony was held to mark the end of C-141 depot maintenance and the departure of C-141C 65-0248. (US Air Force photo by Eric Palmer)
View of the ramp where the ceremony was held to mark the end of C-141
depot maintenance and the departure of C-141C 65-0248. (US Air Force photo
by Eric Palmer)

Brig. Gen. Robert Lytle, Air Force Reserve Command assistant vice commander, tried to ease the minds of those who have been working on the aircraft since it rolled off the assembly line in the mid-1960s.

“We will take care of your aircraft,” he said. “It is an honor. We will work it hard. We have many missions ahead of us over the next two to three years, and we will do them proudly.”

Amid final goodbyes, photographs and speeches, a few of the people who know the C-141 best shared their thoughts on seeing it leave.

“It has been a fantastic journey,” said James Latimore, C-141 support section chief. “I feel great about all we have been able to accomplish on the C-141, but sad to see it go.”

Helping to put what the support of the ALC has done for the Starlifter into perspective, Jim Culpepper, Center Maintenance Director, said 40 million man-hours have been put into the C-141—the equivalent of rebuilding the entire fleet of 284 aircraft produced four times.

“That’s what maintenance brings to the warfighter every day,” he said.

Maj Gen Don Wetekam, WR-ALC Commander (center), and Brig Gen Robert Lytle, Air Force Reserve Command Assistant Vice Commander, listen as Jim Culpepper, WR-ALC Director of Maintenance, speaks at the departure ceremony on 16 October 2003.
Maj Gen Don Wetekam, WR-ALC Commander (center), and Brig Gen Robert
Lytle, Air Force Reserve Command Assistant Vice Commander, listen as Jim Culpepper, WR-ALC Director of Maintenance, speaks at the departure ceremony on 16 October 2003.

Lt. Col. J.C. Clemons in his third tour flying the C-141 and who piloted the aircraft to March Air Reserve Base, Calif., said he feels a sense of pride sitting at the helm on the final flight out.

“It’s a great accomplishment to fly the last Starlifter from Robins, but it’s also a sad day,” he said. “We can only find comfort in the fact that for the next couple of years we can on occasion, look up and see a C-141 flying overhead still supporting the warfighter in an aircraft that we produced here [at Robins]. That’s what the depot mission is all about.”

Lt Col J.C. Clemons (in flight suit), aircraft commander for the final flight from Robins, accepts the AFTO 781 aircraft maintenance forms as the final official act before departure.
Lt Col J.C. Clemons (in flight suit), aircraft commander for the final flight from
Robins, accepts the AFTO 781 aircraft maintenance forms as the final official act before departure.

Although logistics support employees will continue to work with the C-141 until its final retirement, many of the employees have already been absorbed into different aircraft PDM lines, including the C-17 Globemaster III.” [End of excerpt]

C-141C 65-0248 is pushed back for final departure from Robins AFB. The side of the aircraft was signed in chalk by scores of people involved in the C-141 program over the years. (US Air Force photo by Eric Palmer)
C-141C 65-0248 is pushed back for final departure from Robins AFB. The side of the aircraft was signed in chalk by scores of people involved in the C-141 program over the years. (US Air Force photo by Eric Palmer)

That last C-141 to depart the depot line was serial number 65-0248, which is on display at the Museum of Aviation. It was flown back to Robins in June 2005 after it was retired from active service. Museum restoration specialists have been working for weeks to prepare the aircraft for a much-needed repaint. More about that in a future post.

Mike Rowland, Curator

Advertisements

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s