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.
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.”
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.
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.”
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]
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