The Air Force has grounded a big portion of its newly refurbished, multibillion-dollar fleet of C-5 Galaxy transport planes, just to avoid spending the relatively small amount of money it costs to fly them.
In order to save $60 million in annual operating costs, the Air Force has since fiscal 2015 placed eight of its top-of-the-line C-5s in “backup aircraft inventory” status, even though they are needed to ferry troops and gear around the world, said Gen. Carlton Everhart, the four-star chief of Air Mobility Command.
The gargantuan planes, among the largest on the planet, “sit on the ramp” at two Air Force bases, one in California and the other in Delaware, Everhart said in an interview. Periodically, their engines are run or they’re moved around, he said. But the eight planes in the backup inventory have rarely flown for nearly three years — even though they collectively cost more than $2 billion.
When the eight planes that have been grounded merely to save money are combined with four more that are kept in reserve for emergencies under standard procedures, that means nearly a quarter of the latest C-5 aircraft, the M models, are out of service.
Everhart said it was a “budget decision” to ground the eight extra planes, and he hopes the funding will be restored soon to bring them back into the active fleet. “It’s not the most perfect system,” he said of the Pentagon budgeting process.
Virginia Republican Rob Wittman, chairman of the House Armed Services panel that oversees transport aircraft, said this week that the C-5 policy is the product of budget constraints that should be lifted.
“The American people should get the most out of the hard-earned tax dollars that went into modernizing these aircraft,” Wittman said. (end of excerpt)
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