The giant C-17 Globemaster landed on the tiny island of Saint Helena

Miguel Ortiz
Jun 15, 2023 6:59 AM PDT
2 minute read
c-17 globemaster



The British Royal Air Force managed to land a massive Boeing C-17A Globemaster III on Saint Helena.

Located in the South Atlantic, the British overseas territory of Saint Helena is over 1,200 miles from the nearest major land mass, making it extremely remote. The island is serviced by a single airport with just one runway that measures 6,398 feet in length. At over 1,000 feet in elevation, with rocky outcrops and strong wind shear, landing at Saint Helena calls for a steep approach and an experienced pilot. Regular commercial flights utilize small aircraft like the Embraer 190. However, the British Royal Air Force managed to land a massive Boeing C-17A Globemaster III on Saint Helena.

A C-17 lands on a dirt airstrip (U.S. Air Force)

On May 19, 2023, an RAF C-17 conducted four approaches and a flyover of James Bay before landing at Saint Helena Airport. Prior to the arrival of the 282,500-pound cargo plane, the largest aircraft to land at Saint Helena was a Boeing 757-200 on a chartered flight. The Globemaster is nearly 20 feet longer and boasts a wingspan that is over 40 feet longer than the 757. Its flight to Saint Helena was a capability demonstration by the RAF.

The RAF operates eight C-17As (RAF)

Officially, the C-17's landing distance is 3,500 feet. However, this figure is based on the aircraft carrying its maximum payload of 170,900 pounds. Thanks to its powerful reverse thrust, the Globemaster can perform impressively short landings that allow it to operate from unpaved, unimproved runways in support of military missions around the world. At Saint Helena, the C-17's pilot brought the plane to a full stop using just 2,516 feet of runway.

In addition to landing on short runways, the C-17's reverse thrust allows it to turn around a takeoff without the help of a ground vehicle. After landing and offloading its cargo, the Globemaster can take off with 3,000 feet of runway at 395,000 lbs. This is thanks to its four Pratt & Whitney F117 turbofan engines which produce 40,440 lbs of thrust each. With a fuel capacity of 35,546 gallons, the C-17 has a range of 2,780 miles with a 157,000-pound payload and can carry 102 paratroopers, two M2 Bradley Fighting Vehicles, or an M1 Abrams main battle tank.


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