As we have reported earlier about the Reach 871: U.S. Air Force C-17 Globemaster III Flight that Evacuated Afghan civilians from Kabul. Since the news went viral there were many contradictions about the exact number of Afghan civilians on the flight.
Based on recorded radio communications, it was initially reported that the total number of passengers was 800 but later a defense official, speaking on the condition of anonymity, said the true number was about 640 people.
Now the Air Force’s Air Mobility Command (AMC) issued the correction today. The service had earlier confirmed various details about the heavily laden flight but had said that there were only 640 passengers on board when it left Afghanistan. However, this figure did not include more than 180 small children who rode on their parents’ laps, many of whom are clearly visible in a picture that subsequently emerged of Reach 871’s jam-packed cargo bay.
The Air Force says 823 were actually on that plane, which used the callsign Reach 871, and that this is the largest evacuation flight the type has ever flown.
“The initial count of 640 inadvertently included only adults. 183 children were also aboard,” according to posts on AMC’s official Twitter account. “The original number was based on how many bus seats were filled departing the aircraft and didn’t account for the number of children in laps.”
CORRECTION: A @usairforce C-17 Globemaster III safely transported 823 Afghan citizens from Hamid Karzai International Airport Aug. 15, 2021. This is a record for this aircraft.⁰
The initial count of 640 inadvertently included only adults. 183 children were also aboard. https://t.co/DL6wP8WTQV
— Air Mobility Command (@AirMobilityCmd) August 20, 2021
This revised figure aligns with the audio recordings of conversations between Reach 871’s crew and other Air Force personnel, likely conducted via satellite radio, that had previously emerged and that you can listen to below. “800 people on your jet?! Holy… Holy cow… Ok…,” a person can be heard saying at one point after getting the estimated headcount from an individual on the C-17A.
The Boeing C-17A Globemaster III is a heavy-lifter in Air Mobility Command. It’s powered by four Pratt & Whitney F117-PW-100 engines which produce 40,900 pounds of thrust each.
According to Boeing, however, the aircraft’s official passenger capacity is 134 paratroopers with 80 sitting on 8 pallets, plus 54 passengers sitting on sidewall seats. For RCH 871 to cram 823 people onto their aircraft is an incredible feat.