C-5M Super Galaxy sets 41 (unofficial) world records in a single flight

C-5M Super Galaxy "The Spirit of Normandy" departing Dover AFB for its record-breaking flight.  (U.S. Air Force photo/Jason Minto)

C-5M Super Galaxy "The Spirit of Normandy" departing Dover AFB for its record-breaking flight. (U.S. Air Force photo/Jason Minto)

9/14/2009 – DOVER AIR FORCE BASE, Del. — A Dover aircrew flying a C-5M Super Galaxy, named The Spirit of Normandy, unofficially set 41 world records in a single flight, taking off from the base before dawn Sept. 13.

The results are pending certification by the National Aeronautic Association and should be finalized in about a month, said Kristan Maynard, the NAA official observer who documented the world record attempt. The NAA is the record-keeper for U.S. aviation.

…With a payload of about 178,000 pounds, the C-5M climbed to 12,000 meters (39,369 feet) in less than 28 minutes, setting the altitude, payload and time-to-climb records during the one-and-a-half-hour flight. Because they were successful, the records “trickled down” to the lighter payloads and lower altitudes.

…One of the records broken during the flight was previously held by the Russians who set it in 1989 with a Tupolev Tu-160 aircraft, said Mr. Maynard. It’s one of the more significant records broken: the altitude attained in horizontal flight.

The C-5M crew also set a new record for the greatest mass carried to 2,000 meters, set by a C-17A Globemaster III in 1993. The crew also broke six other records previously held by the C-17.

— Losurdo, Marnee (Capt., USAF).  “C-5M Super Galaxy unofficially sets 41 world records.”  512th Airlift Wing Public Affairs, 14 September 2009.

All right, I’m officially impressed.

A few years ago the Air Force was worried about the state of its C-5s.  The aircraft was a bit of a disappointment, frequently in need of repair or overhaul.  But when maintainers tested the airframes themselves, it discovered that about 80% of the planes’ structural life remained.  This revelation begat an effort to re-engine and modernise the C-5; they would receive new glass cockpits to replace the ’60s-vintage “steam gauges” (the Avionics Modernization Program, or AMP), and their original General Electric  TF39-GE-1C engines would be replaced with newer, more efficient General Electric F138-GE-100 engines (the Reliability Enhancement and Re-engining Program, or RERP).

The RERP program experienced serious cost growth, resulting in the modernisation plans being limited to only half the fleet.  Around this time many wondered if AMP/RERP were still capable of delivering the Air Force’s dream of a revitalised C-5 fleet for less than the cost of replacement by C-17s.  The Galaxy fleet has been, to this point, a notorious collection of ramp queens, whose mission capable rate hovers around 58 percent, well below Air Mobility Command’s desired metric of 75 percent; in comparison the younger C-17 fleet typically scores about 85 percent.

Now that three of the AMPed/RERPed C-5Ms are out in the wild, we’ll have a better idea of what their reliability is going to be.  But this is a very auspicious start.

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