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Watch: The Galaxy Was a Massive Undertaking and an Engineering Triumph

Lockheed Went Where No Aerospace Company Had Gone Before

C-5A. US Air Force photograph

When Lockheed first flew the C-5A Galaxy strategic airlifter on June 30th 1968, the company had already overcome a myriad of engineering challenges to build the jet. The film “C-5 Galaxy- World’s Largest Aircraft” was made to tell the story of how Lockheed designed, engineered, and built what was indeed (at the time) the world’s largest aircraft. FRED fans will appreciate this flashback to the time when excitement about the C-5A was at fever pitch. The 1969 film was uploaded to YouTube by Jeff Quitney.

Of course the C-5A was the world’s largest aircraft when this film was made. During the 1980s the Antonov An-124 Ruslan was introduced and took the title from the Galaxy, but not by a great margin. It wasn’t until Antonov followed up the An-124 with the An-225 Mriya airlifter in 1988 that the C-5 was truly outsized by two Russian designs that clearly borrowed liberally from the design of  Galaxy. In the wingspan flown department, nothing has touched the Hughes H-4 Hercules or Spruce Goose flying boat at 320 feet, though the Scaled Composites Stratolaunch carrier aircraft has longer wings at 385 feet but hasn’t flown. Yet.

C-5As. US Air Force photograph

C-5As first entered US Air Force service with the 437th Airlift Wing at Charleston Air Force Base (AFB) in South Carolina during June of 1970. The C-5As were replacing Douglas C-133 Cargomaster airlifters. Today, Air Force, Air Force Reserve, and Air National Guard squadrons operate C-5 strategic airlifters from Dover AFB in Delaware, Travis AFB in California, Kelly/Lackland AFB in Texas, and Westover Air Reserve Base in Massachusetts. Upgrade programs have enabled the remaining C-5 Galaxy fleet to serve well in the 2040s- when the basic design will be more than 70 years old.

C-5B. US Air Force photograph

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Bill Walton

Written by Bill Walton

Bill Walton is a life-long aviation enthusiast and expert in aircraft recognition. As a teenager Bill helped his engineer father build an award-winning T-18 homebuilt airplane in their Wisconsin basement. Bill is a freelance writer, an avid sailor, engineer, announcer, husband, father, uncle, mentor, coach, and Navy veteran. Bill lives north of Houston TX with his wife and son under the approach path to KDWH runway 17R, which means they get to look up at a lot of airplanes. A very good thing.

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