The Defense Department Thursday released details of its agreement settling the C-17 cargo jet dispute with McDonnell Douglas, showing that the plane's capability to land on short fields and carry heavy loads over long distances will be reduced.
The reductions were not unexpected, as the C-17 was unable to meet its original specifications because the aircraft weight was higher than originally planned and the engines burned more fuel than expected.
The agreement specifies that the C-17's maximum cargo payload will be cut 6% to 157,000 pounds and the runway length required for it to land fully loaded will be increased 11% to 3,000 feet. In meeting a key requirement to fly missions of 3,200 miles, crucial on transoceanic trips, the plane will also carry 10,000 pounds less cargo.
The Air Force believes those changes will still allow the plane to operate effectively, exceeding the capabilities of the C-130 and C-141 cargo jets. The service said that even with the reductions in performance, the plane will meet or exceed requirements set by the Joint Chiefs of Staff.
Meanwhile, McDonnell Douglas and the Air Force will jointly spend $420 million to fix various structural problems on the plane's wings, flaps and slats, roughly $20 million more than had been estimated last summer by congressional sources.
An Air Force fact paper released Thursday shows that the government will absorb $292 million and the company $128 million. The costs are in addition to another several hundred million dollars the company and government have agreed to spend on the program.
A McDonnell spokesman said all of the costs related to the agreement will be covered by a $450-million write-off announced last year.
"This agreement puts the past in the past and allows the program to succeed on its own merits," the spokesman said. "We at McDonnell Douglas are confident the C-17 will fulfill its intended goal as the cornerstone of future airlift forces and add to our company's heritage of building the best aerospace products in the world."
Separately, McDonnell said Thursday that it will modify the C-17 wing at a leased hangar in Tulsa, Okla., that will employ about 300 people over two years. A company spokesman said the firm could not find a hangar in Southern California that would accommodate two C-17 aircraft at the same time.
"We went out and searched for the best place to do this and we selected Tulsa," the spokesman said.