A Galaxy all its own

C-5 changed modern airlift as Air Force workhorse

A C-5 Galaxy can carry a fully equipped combat-ready military unit to any point in the world on short notice and then provide the supplies required to help sustain the fighting force.

A C-5 Galaxy can carry a fully equipped combat-ready military unit to any point in the world on short notice and then provide the supplies required to help sustain the fighting force. (U.S. Air Force photo)


The Lockheed-Georgia Co. delivered the first operational C-5 Galaxy to the 437th Airlift Wing, Charleston Air Force Base, now known as Joint Base Charleston, S.C., in June 1970.

Since that time, the C-5 has been moving cargo all over the world; delivering equipment to troops in the Middle East; relief supplies to areas affected by floods, earthquakes and tsunamis; and people to points across the globe. The C-5 and its aircrews have been effectively completing these missions for nearly half a century.

The first thing people notice about the C-5 is its size. The plane, simply stated, is a giant. At a height of 65.1 feet and a length of 247.1 feet, it’s as tall as a six-story building and nearly as long as a football field.

The C-5’s cargo floor is 121 feet long (one foot longer than the Wright Brothers first flight at Kitty Hawk, N.C.) This massive cargo compartment can be accessed through the front or rear of the aircraft using its upward-hinged visor in the nose and outward opening clamshell doors in the rear. This allows drive-through loading and unloading of wheeled or tracked vehicles.

From its cargo capacity to its enormous size and range, the C-5 has established itself as a vital part of the Air Force’s airlift mission. And, with continued improvements and modernization, the Galaxy is on pace to remain so for years to come.

12 thoughts on “A Galaxy all its own

  1. 43 years of service and all you can show is 20 photos – can you spell DISAPPOINTED. I spent 28 1/2 years of that 43 on them, both as a crew chief and as a flight engineer and I can give you way more that 20 pictures. Once again, a great airplane like this that has had such a distinguished career deserves more that 20 pictures….

  2. Don’t forget the C-5 Med-a-vac with reverse seating I took returning from Germany in the 80’s when my daughter was transported to Wilfred Hall.

  3. These are great pictures. I loaded cargo and passengers on this aircraft all through my career and would like to see some pictures when they were converting the C5 to smokeless engines. It was something to see one landing at Dover with 2 or 3 converted engines and 1 or 2 smoking.

  4. My favorite memories as an avionics maintenance specialist was when I worked on these C5s in the 70’s at Altus AFB. One of the most memorable was the night, on a hot, high priority response, the full bird colonel Chief of Maintenance rolled up his sleeves, and was up in the stand helping me to change out a fuel pump on an engine. We had receive two or three pumps back-to-back from supply that were defective, and this flight was getting behind schedule! I never lost my amazement and awe at the amount of space and locations for being able to maintain the airplane components. And, this behemoth could acutally get off the ground and fly at 500 mph! At least, I read that somewhere.

  5. I worked on the C-5 as a Crew Chief both at Travis and Dover. I didn’t know Charleston took delivery of any C-5’s. I knew they were located at Dover, Travis and Altus!

  6. I have many memories of this huge plane. From there deployment to Charleston to laying on the ground across from Rhine Main when one was descending for landing. When I was stationed at Shaw AFB during an exercise we loaded one with vehicles. The driver of a douse and a half burned up the clutch trying to back into the front cargo area. I can always tell when a C-5 is overhead by the sound of its engines.

  7. I’ve never seen one of these actually leave the flightline… but have flown on probably 50 C-17 flights across six continents. Now that’s the true Air Force workhorse!

  8. I remember watching tail number 008’s wing get struck by lightning while building a Wide Body Loader at Dover in ’85. What day that was. Interestingly enough, that bird flew again, albeit after it was the only bird left at Dover when Dover’s flightline was all but abandoned when hurricane Gloria came skipping up the coast. Fun days as a 463-L Mechanic.

  9. Don;t forget C-5A Galaxy 68-0218 that crashed during Air-Evac Operation Babylift from Saigon-Tan Son Nhut AB in 1975.

  10. A great aircraft which I flew on twice but admired since 1970 during my career. Powered originally by 4 GE Reliable engines now powered by commercial proven GE CF6 engines which are highly reliable and maintainable which gives the aircraft more power at less fuel burn rates. This power couple with all the upgrades to include a glass instrument cockpit makes the C5M capable of flying into the 2040’s with great maintenance care. How could you ever improve this great work horse !