SAN ANTONIO (AFPN) --
The C-5 Galaxy crash at Dover Air Force Base, Del., April 3 placed the aging aircraft in the spotlight once again.
With no deaths reported, military officials are cleaning the crash site and are convening a board of officers to investigate the cause of the accident.
But the crash does not tarnish John Leland’s image of the C-5 Galaxy. He places the aircraft in such high regard he has co-written a book about the Air Force’s largest cargo aircraft, “The Chronological History of the C-5 Galaxy.”
“Since this was just its sixth crash in its history, that tells me it has had a good, solid record of performance over the years,” said the historian who works at the Air Mobility Command Office of History at Scott Air Force Base, Ill.
Mr. Leland will include the recent crash in the C-5’s chronological history, which he updates religiously.
Biggest plane in the world
The C-5’s history dates back to March 2, 1968, when President Lyndon B. Johnson attended the rollout and christening ceremony. At that time, it was the largest plane in the world.
“The aircraft symbolized the size, power, might and majesty of the United States Air Force,” Mr. Leland said.
The Galaxy has 12 internal wing tanks with a total capacity of 51,150 gallons of fuel -- enough to fill six-and-a-half regular-size railroad tank cars. At nearly a football field long and nearly six stories high, it can carry tanks and buses. With aerial refueling, the aircraft’s range is limited only by crew endurance.
In 1982, the Antonov 124, a Soviet air transport, set a record for the largest mass ever lifted by an airplane, snatching away the C-5’s title.
The C-5s that could
Since its inception, the C-5 has helped during times of war -- Vietnam, Desert Shield/Storm, Operation Enduring Freedom and Operation Iraqi Freedom.
In 2001, the C-5 furnished about 50 percent of Air Mobility Command’s organic strategic airlift capability. During OEF, the C-5 flew 33 percent of the cargo missions, hauled 46 percent of the total cargo and carried 40 percent of all passengers airlifted by AMC. In Operation Iraqi Freedom, it flew about 23 percent of the missions and delivered about 48 percent of the cargo, moving more cargo per mission than the C-17 Globemaster III and the C-141B Starlifter.
It was also invaluable during times of peace, especially during humanitarian missions.
“The Air Mobility Command developed the C-5’s humanitarian mission a number of years ago, and humanitarian airlift is AMC’s gift to the world,” Mr. Leland said.
Old but not forgotten
Although the C-5 Galaxy is getting old, it can still carry twice the amount of its newest cargo carrier sibling, the C-17.
“I like to think of the C-5 as augmenting the C-17,” Mr. Leland said.
With the retiring of the C-141, which started in 2002 and ended this year, the C-5 and C-17 must now carry the millions of tons per year generated by Air Force missions round the world.
Based on a study showing 80 percent of the C-5 service life remaining, AMC began to modernize the C-5. The C-5 Avionics Modernization Program began in 1998 and includes upgrading avionics to comply with air traffic control compliance, improving navigation and safety equipment and installing a new autopilot system.
Another part of the makeover includes new engines, auxiliary power units and other improvements.
“The aircraft has been deemed structurally sound until the year 2040, thus the ‘re-engining’ program,” Mr. Leland said.
In his book, he wrote, “The C-5 has already accomplished what no other air transport has ever achieved, including the new, more reliable C-17.”
Not wanting to speculate on the cause of yesterday’s crash, Mr. Leland said the crash demonstrated the superior training by the aircrew.
“The C-5 flew an awful lot of missions, and I could tell they were superbly trained because there were no critical injuries,” he said.
Other incidents that destroyed C-5s
May 25, 1970 -- Burned aircraft at Palmdale, Calif., during a flight test.
Oct. 17, 1970 -- Also burned during a flight test, this time at Marietta, Ga.
Sept. 27, 1974 -- Crashed at Clinton Municipal Airport, Okla.
April 5, 1975 -- Crashed in Saigon, Vietnam, during Operation Babylift.
Aug. 29, 1990 -- Crashed at Ramstein Air Base, Germany, during Operation Desert Storm.