Aviation History

USAF McDonnell Douglas YC-15 pilot recalls AMST program failing to replace the C-130 Hercules

McDonnell Douglas YC-15 Vs Boeing YC-14

The McDonnell Douglas (now Boeing) YC-15 was a four-engine short take-off and landing (STOL) tactical transport. It was McDonnell Douglas’ entrant into the United States Air Force’s Advanced Medium STOL Transport (AMST) competition to replace the Lockheed C-130 Hercules as the USAF’s standard STOL tactical transport. Two YC-15s were built, one with a wingspan of 110 feet (S/N 72-1876) and one with 132 feet (S/N 72-1875).

The Boeing YC-14, being first flown in 1976, was an impressive aeronautical achievement. This aircraft signaled many firsts in aircraft design, the most prominent being the use of upper-surface blowing (which turned the jet engine flow downward), combined with boundary-layer control, to allow flight at amazingly low airspeeds.

Boeing YC-14

However, in the end, neither the YC-15 nor the YC-14 was ordered into production, although the YC-15’s basic design would be used to form the successful C-17 Globemaster III.

AMST program termination

Ron Wagner, former USAF pilot in the Presidential Wing at Andrews AFB, recalls on Quora;

‘I flew one of the prototypes of the AMST, which was intended to produce a replacement for the C-130. The AMST proposal was issued on 10 November 1972. Boeing responded with the YC-14.

‘I was familiar with the YC-15 response from McDonnel-Douglas, which first flew on 26 August 1975. A second prototype flew in December 1975. The second one had a longer wingspan and was painted in camouflage colors.

‘The program ended in December 1979. […] I got to fly the cool-looking camouflaged YC-15 when it was at Andrews Air Force Base sometime in late 1978/early 1979. I left Andrews in January 1980, which was AFTER the AMST program ended.

McDonnell Douglas YC-15

‘McDonnell Douglas took the second prototype to Andrews to impress Pentagon generals and members of Congress in a final push for a contract. It failed to get any orders.’

McDonnell Douglas YC-15 flight

He continues;

‘I flew it only locally around Andrews, making the takeoff and flying around the area for a bit. It used a DC-10 cockpit but had the ankle-height windows you see in the C-130. That was the best view I ever got of my home, local flying area. Cool view. The test pilot let me set up the approach, but being one of only two in the world, he took the landing himself.

‘I later saw and photographed the first prototype at “the Boneyard” in Arizona. But they eventually scrapped it.

‘This is the one I flew. Note the cool lower windows.

‘That must have been interesting to have been involved in upgrading the YC-15 to the C-17. The only 4-engine time I have in my 10,000+ hours is the 15 minutes I flew the YC-15. It handled like a small plane, really fun to fly.

The C-130 Endures

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‘Now, more than 51 years after the AMST proposal was issued and 44 years after that project was canceled, Lockheed is still delivering new C-130s.’

Wagner concludes;

‘Think of this bizarre fact: When the C-130 was 18 years old, the USAF issued a proposal to replace it, which actually sounds about right for the timing. But they didn’t buy it and the C-130 will be 70 years old in August of this year and new ones are still on backorder.’

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Photo credit: U.S. Air Force and Mike Freer via Wikipedia

Dario Leone

Dario Leone is an aviation, defense and military writer. He is the Founder and Editor of “The Aviation Geek Club” one of the world’s most read military aviation blogs. His writing has appeared in The National Interest and other news media. He has reported from Europe and flown Super Puma and Cougar helicopters with the Swiss Air Force.

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