Friday, November 6, 2020

U.S. Air Force celebrates 35 years of C-21 operations

The U.S. Air Force celebrates 35 years of C-21 multi-role military transport aircraft operations, according to 375th Air Mobility Wing Public Affairs.

After 35 years of C-21 operations, the Air Force is celebrating 2019 as “the Year of the Lear” with upgrades for the airframe and changes with the units that fly it. Delivery of the C-21 fleet began in April 1984 and was completed in October 1985.

A $38 million avionics upgrade for the fleet is underway and a consolidation effort is moving four aircraft from Andrews Air Force Base, Maryland, to join Scott’s 10 C-21s by late summer, bringing the total of 14 aircraft assigned here.

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In addition and to help celebrate the legacy of the C-21 fleet, members from the 458th Airlift Squadron designed a new tail flash for the aircraft which is scheduled to be unveiled in late March.

“We are receiving phenomenal additions in terms of resources and people, and are excited about their upcoming arrival,” said Lt. Col. Brooke Matson, 458th AS commander. “As we combine forces to become ‘America’s Learjet Squadron,’ we’re fortunate to have such a supportive local community to grow with. The Air Force couldn’t have picked a better location than Scott Air Force Base to expand our mission set.”

One by one, C-21s are being sent to Wichita, Kansas, to receive new avionics and communications suites that will expand the aircraft’s reach, effectiveness, and capability. The upgrades come in time to meet FAA’s 2020 equipment mandate to keep increasingly congested airspace safe. 

Lt. Col. James Chapa, 458th AS director of operations, explained, that “our mission is to deliver rapid, responsive and safe airlift, but we do that in increasingly congested airspace here in the U.S. and around the world. Aircraft with the new avionics upgrade give our crews the tools they need to continue to operate safely in that busy environment, while also gaining access to some of the exciting new advances in communication and navigation systems being implemented now throughout the airspace system. As they gain certification in the AUP aircraft, our crewmembers aren’t just learning how to operate new avionics, they’re unlocking the skills they’ll need to operate as crewmembers in 2020 and beyond.”
Embracing the challenge and opportunity of the new upgrades, members of the 458th AS took the initiative to design and implement a new tail flash that commemorates the legacy of Scott AFB and its historic contributions to military aviation. 

Lt. Col. James Chapa, 458th Airlift Squadron operations officer, poses in front of a legacy C-21 on Jan. 28, 2019 at Scott Air Force Base, Ill. Photo by Senior Airman Daniel Garcia

“It was truly a group effort design within the squadron to come together to figure out how we could symbolize our incredible mission at this remarkable time,” said Matson. “It was voted on base-wide, and we love how this particular design celebrates our history and heritage and it lets those who see it know we represent not only Scott AFB, but the entire nation.” 

The C-21A is a twin turbofan-engine aircraft used for cargo and passenger airlift. The aircraft is the military version of the Learjet 35A business jet. In addition to providing cargo and passenger airlift, the aircraft is also capable of transporting one litter or five ambulatory patients during aeromedical evacuations.

“I can’t think of a better way to celebrate the “Year of the Lear” than to invest in our mission set by expanding our capabilities and adding to our fleet.” said Matson. “It’s an exciting time to be a part of the 458th Airlift Squadron.”

Photo by Senior Airman Daniel Garcia

The C-21 can carry eight passengers and 42 cubic feet (1.26 cubic meters) of cargo. The fuel capacity of the C-21 is 931 gallons (3,537.8 liters) with refueling accomplished at ground level through each wingtip tank. The safety and operational capabilities of the C-21 are increased by the autopilot, color weather radar and tactical air navigation system, as well as high frequency, very high frequency and ultra high frequency radios. 

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