Boeing has launched a new offering this week into the airlift market in the shape of the C-40A Combi. Based on a commercial 737 airliner, the C-40A was initially developed for the US Navy, which calls the aircraft Clipper and uses it in the fleet logistics support role.
Recognising the value that the C-40A brings in terms of the cost-efficient transport of people, freight, or both simultaneously, Boeing is now offering the aircraft on the export market. Many air forces use military-spec airlifters for missions that do not require their performance characteristics. The use of tactical airlifters for passenger transport, for instance, is very costly, and places an unnecessary operational burden on the specialised fleet.
Boeing is pitching the C-40A Combi at air arms in countries that have transport needs that do not require rough- or short-field performance, and where adequate airfield infrastructure is already in place. The company recognises the need for tactical airlift, but suggests that the expensive tactical fleet could be reduced and the everyday burden of routine transport taken up by the cheaper-to-acquire and cheaper-to-operate C-40A Combi.
Basing the C-40A on the commercial 737- 700 airliner has many benefits compared with dedicated tactical airlifters. First, it is commercially obtainable because it does not contain any export-sensitive systems. Second, the C-40A can be supported by the commercial spares and maintenance infrastructure for the Boeing 737 airliner that is available in just about every country.
The principal features of the Combi are a flexible cabin and a 134in by 88in cargo door in the forward port side of the fuselage. This allows both freight and seating to be loaded or removed. The aircraft has the option of being fitted with integral airstairs fore and aft.
In all-passenger configuration, the Combi typically has seating for 140 passengers, while in all-freight layout it can accommodate eight standard pallets and a maximum payload of 40,000 lb. It can transport this load over a range of 3,200 nautical miles.
The Combi concept allows the cabin to be tailored to a variety of configurations. With three freight pallets in the forward part, for instance, it can still carry 70 passengers.