C-21 fleet continues to dwindle

  • Published
  • By Capt. Erin Dorrance
  • 435th Air Base Wing Public Affairs
Members of the 76th Airlift Squadron bid farewell to three of its 13 C-21 aircraft in January, as the Air Force retires the aircraft from the active-duty inventory.

The C-21 is the military version of the Lear Jet 35A business jet and is used primarily for senior-level passengers, cargo airlift and aeromedical evacuations.

"No commander wants to lose assets, but we understand it is for the good of the Air Force," said Lt. Col. Dan Baldessari, the 76th AS commander. "We are fortunate to not lose more than we already are."

The 76th AS flew more than 2,965 sorties in 2006 which was approximately 1,000 more than in 2005, according to the 76th AS C-21 Flight. Those sorties included more than 120 aeromedical evacuations that potentially saved 140 lives.

Although the squadron is losing three C-21s, Colonel Baldessari said it will not affect the aeromedical evacuation mission, as the 76th AS will continue to have crews on alert for those missions.

Colonel Baldessari said the real impact will be scheduled missions including transporting distinguished visitors, cargo and intelligence support.

Because of the flight's high-operations tempo, higher headquarters will combine missions for distinguished visitors, possibly putting two parties on one jet, he said.

As the planes leave, the number of C-21 pilots and support members will be reduced appropriately, but will continue to work in the squadron until their date of estimated return from overseas.

Despite the loss, Colonel Baldessari said the flight of professional aircrew members is ready to take on the challenge and continue to accomplish the mission 365 days a year.

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