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C-21 community celebrates ‘Year of the Lear’ with consolidation, avionics upgrades

458th Airlift Squadron pilots, Maj, Taylor Todd and Capt. Nicholas Parrish, discuss preflight procedures prior to a training flight at Scott Air Force Base, Illinois on Dec. 17, 2018. In 2019, the 458th AS celebrates 35 years of C-21 operations at Scott AFB. 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.

Maj. Taylor Todd and Capt. Nicholas Parrish, 458th Airlift Squadron pilots, discuss preflight procedures prior to a training flight at Scott Air Force Base, Ill., Dec. 17, 2018. 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. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Daniel Garcia)

SCOTT AIR FORCE BASE, Ill. (AFNS) -- After 35 years of C-21 operations, mobility Airmen are celebrating 2019 as “the Year of the Lear” with upgrades for the airframe and changes within the units that fly it. The C-21 is the military version of the Lear Jet 35A.
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 AFB’s 10 C-21s by late summer.

“We are receiving phenomenal additions in terms of resources and people, and are excited about their upcoming arrival,” said Lt. Col. Brooke Matson, 458th Airlift Squadron 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 AFB 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 Federal Aviation Administration’s 2020 equipment mandate to keep increasingly congested airspace safe.

“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," said Lt. Col. James Chapa, 458th AS director of operations. "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. Our crew members aren’t just learning how to operate new avionics, they’re unlocking the skills they’ll need to operate as crew members in 2020 and beyond.”


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 capable of transporting one litter or five ambulatory patients during aeromedical evacuations.

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