Texas Members Ride Mammoth C-5M Super Galaxy
Twenty-two members from four squadrons in Texas Wing Group 1 had the rare opportunity June 8 to fly a C-5M Super Galaxy out of Joint Base San Antonio-Lackland, Texas.
Members from the Lubbock, San Angelo and Three Rivers composite squadrons and Texas Leadership Charter Academy Cadet Squadron received the incentive flight courtesy of the 433rd Airlift Wing. When they arrived at Lackland they encountered a surprise – U.S. Air Force Academy cadets had been added to the passenger list.
“I had started planning the flight 18 months ago,” said Lt. Col. Johanna Augustine, commander of the Three Rivers squadron. “We found out the morning of the flight that the academy cadets were at Lackland for summer training and that the 433rd offered them the opportunity to go on the flight.
“This turned out to be a unique opportunity for the CAP cadets to ask questions about academy life and the application process,” Augustine said.
Both groups received a preflight briefing from Col. Thomas K. “TK” Smith Jr., commander of the Air Force Reserve Command’s 433rd Airlift Wing, also known as the Alamo wing. Smith spoke about the wing’s history and its past and present missions. He also discussed the mission capabilities of the C-5M Super Galaxy, which is used to provide airlift support for peacetime, contingency and humanitarian operations.
After the briefing, everyone was transported via bus to the waiting C-5M – an imposing aircraft 247 feet, 10 inches long and 65 feet, 1 inch high, with a 222-foot, 9-inch wingspan.
The passengers climbed a ladder to enter the plane’s cavernous cargo area. Once there, they either climbed another ladder to the front flight deck or walked the length of the cargo hold area to the back of the aircraft, where they climbed another ladder to the rear flight deck.
After they were seated, the roar of the engines could be heard outside as they came to life one at a time. With the seats facing backward and no windows next to the back upper deck seats, it was difficult to know which direction the C-5M was traveling as it taxied down the tarmac. A few minutes later the aircraft slowly but steadily lifted into the air on 51,250 pounds of thrust per engine.
A three-hour nonstop flight over Texas and Louisiana ensued as the pilot gently guided the plane toward Houston and out over the Gulf of Mexico, giving those fortunate enough to be in the cockpit a view of beaches along the Texas coast. Then the aircraft headed inland over the wetlands of Louisiana to the airport at Lafayette, where the pilot and co-pilot suddenly aborted the landing on approach and headed sharply skyward.
Throughout the flight the loadmasters allowed 10 passengers at a time to visit and sit in the cockpit and aircrew seating area. That gave all the Civil Air Patrol members and Air Force Academy cadets the opportunity to experience what it would be like to fly a C-5M. Some even witnessed airborne refueling.
Five passengers at a time were allowed to share the cockpit with the pilot, co-pilot and two flight engineers, with the loadmaster directing the other five to the aircrew seats down a hall from the cockpit.
Once the pilot turned from Louisiana for the return trip to San Antonio, a few lucky passengers got the opportunity to stay in the cockpit for the landing at Joint Base San Antonio-Lackland.
“I don’t know who was more excited – CAP cadets or USAFA cadets,” Augustine said. “This was a first for many of them.”
One such cadet was the Three Rivers squadron’s Cadet Airman First Class Saqlain Shah, who said, “This is the first time I’ve flown on a plane. Any plane!”
After the flight Capt. Michael G. Medrano, chief of current operations and a C-5M instructor pilot, discovered that the combined CAP/Air Force Academy incentive flight was the first under his tenure at the 433rd. The wing, also known as the Alamo Wing, is the home of the Formal Training Unit for all C-5M Super Galaxy aircrew training and provides massive strategic airlift for deployment and supply of combat and support forces worldwide.