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Really, 16 Years: The Air Force's newest airlifter, the C-17, took its maiden flight 16 years ago and, to its aircrews, it is the best airlifter ever, reports Maj. Adriane Craig. "It's hard to believe, but it flies more like a fighter than heavy," said Capt. Ryan Spodar, a C-17 pilot deployed to Manas AB, Kyrgyzstan. Maj. Wayne Manuel, director of operations for the unit at Manas, called it the "best transport aircraft ever." He added that one of its unique capabilities—designed for austere airstrips—has proved especially useful at Manas, where the parking space is limited. The C-17 can back up under its own power. The parking layout at Manas "doesn't allow you to pull forward" so the C-17 pilots simply back up to be on their way.