Mississippi Air Guard Gets Look At State-Of-The-Art Cargo Plane

The C-17 Globemaster III has a wing span of nearly 170 feet. That's longer than half of a football field. The U-S Air Force chose Mississippi's 172nd Air Guard unit as the first in the nation to receive six of these $230 million aircraft.

"It will come new off the production line," Gen. James Lipscomb with the Mississippi National Guard said. "This is obviously a reflection of the strength and dedication of the men and women that make up the 172 and the confidence the US Air Force has in their ability to take on the newest heavy lift capabilities the Air Force has."

Col. Erik Hearon has been with the 172nd for more than 30 years. This pilot says the C-17s will help the squadron members perform their jobs even better than the older C-141 models did. The new generation cargo plane has special features for military purposes.

"The C-17 will get into unimproved runways like Bosnia,' Col. Hearon said. "We'll get into more situations with diverse missions than we've been able to with the C-141. It will haul much more cargo in a different way."

Mississippi's 172nd is the first to get the planes because it's one of the best airlift squadrons in the nation.

"In over the years, every mission that they've been given has been executed to the highest level of safety and the highest level of efficiency," Gen. Lipscomb said. "This unit has amassed 48 years of a safety record with no incidents."

The six new planes will come straight from the factory in Long Beach, California, in 2004.