Air Force C-5 cargo planes return to sky in Dover

 A C-5M Super Galaxy’s nose landing gear undergoes a maintenance operations check July 28, 2017, at Dover Air Force Base, Del. Two C-5M nose landing gear malfunctions within a 60-day period during landings at Naval Air Station Rota, Spain, halted all Dover C-5M flight operations. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Zachary Cacicia)

A C-5M Super Galaxy’s nose landing gear undergoes a maintenance operations check July 28, 2017, at Dover Air Force Base, Del. Two C-5M nose landing gear malfunctions within a 60-day period during landings at Naval Air Station Rota, Spain, halted all Dover C-5M flight operations. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Zachary Cacicia)

The massive cargo planes had been grounded following two separate incidents involving problems with landing gear.

The C-5 Super Galaxies were grounded on July 17 after a second malfunction involving the nose landing gear within 60 days. Leader of the Air Mobility Command Gen. Carlton D. Everhart returned five of the planes based at Dover Air Force Base to service after repairs were made. Work is still being done on other planes.

“Our Airmen are working deliberately and methodically at Dover and across the command to identify and resolve any issues impacting the C-5 fleet,” Everhart said. To fix the nose gear problem, crews replaced the ball screw assembly which retract and extend the nose landing gear. If one of two ball screws doesn’t function properly, it could cause binding which would prevent the gear from operating.

Once they’ve landed, the giant cargo planes are able to kneel, or lower the body of the plane to allow for easier loading and unloading. That process is accomplished with a hydraulic system. But as a precaution, a new policy restricts kneeling the planes only when it’s essential to the mission.

“We have put measures in place to ensure aircrew safety and reduce wear-and-tear on the aircraft,” Everhart said. “With an aging fleet, it is important to take all potential measures to reduce stress on the aircraft.”

The Air Force has a total of 56 C-5 planes in its fleet. Dover is home to 18 C-5s, 12 are primary aircraft and six are backups.

In April 2006, a C-5 plane crashed shortly after takeoff from Dover. The plane, which was en route to Germany, crashed about a mile from the runway. All 17 people on board survived, but three crew members were seriously injured. The accident investigation board determined the pilots and flight engineers were at fault for the crash.

The C-5 is one of the largest aircraft in the world and is the biggest airlifter in the U.S. Air Force. The aircraft can carry a fully equipped combat-ready military unit to any point in the world. It can hold a maximum cargo of 135 tons.

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