McDonnell Douglas (MDC) has authorised production of two additional "white-tail" (unsold) C-17 transports in 1998, providing the first opportunity for the sale of a commercial MD-17 or foreign-military-sale C-17 versions.

The US company says: "We think there's a good chance we are going to sell them commercially or internationally as a military transport, so we have got the go-ahead from the US Air Force and our board to build two white tails into the flow."

By adding two extra aircraft to the production schedule, MDC also "smooths out" the increase to 13 aircraft due in 1999. The company is making eight C-17s in 1997 and originally had nine planned for 1998. The extra two means that "-we're essentially moving up to 8.5 in 1997 and 11 in 1998".

The company adds that the decision to make the additional airframes does not constitute the launch of the MD-17.

The USAF has agreed to take the aircraft as part of its overall allotment if MDC fails to find a buyer. The current production-span time of 16-17 months is also being whittled down to 12 months over the next year, meaning that the first white tail should be available around the end of the third quarter of 1998.

Source: Flight International