An upgraded version of the largest aircraft in the United States Air Force's inventory carried out a multiple record-breaking flight on September 13th 2009. The aircraft - a Lockheed C-5M Galaxy super heavyweight transporter - achieved over 40 new world records whilst in the air - 33 of them unprecedented, and eight of them updating existing ones.
The Galaxy's records were established within a specific class - C-1.S, Jet - for aircraft with an empty weight of between 250,000 and 300,000 kilograms. These related to the following areas of flight:
- Altitude whilst carrying a payload
- Time-to-climb (time taken to reach a certain altitude direct from take off)
- Time-to-climb whilst carrying a payload
- Heaviest payload to an altitude of 6,561 feet (2,000 metres above ground level)
The C-5M Galaxy reached a height of in excess of 41,000 feet in less than 24 minutes, whilst carrying an 80,000+ kilogram load on board.
As far as vice president of Lockheed Martin's C-5 Program, Lorraine Martin, was concerned, the purpose of the flight was not just to establish a record, but to highlight the new Galaxy's military potential too. "These records are not just for show" she said. "They demonstrate conclusively the C-5M's ability to quickly get the warfighter out of harm's way while carrying a larger payload than any other U.S. airlifter. This flight also showed the Super Galaxy can operate with that payload at operational altitudes.
"The C-5M is strategic airlift redefined."
World Altitude Record
The principal flight record broken was a world altitude record whilst carrying a payload, and this saw a height attained of 41,188 feet. During the same flight, the Galaxy also established records for time-to-climb without payload, as well as time-to-climb with a range of payloads from 35,000 kilograms up to 80,000 kilograms.
Each new record set is now due to be officially recognised by the US National Aeronautic Association - a division of the global FAI (Federation Aeronautique Internationale) organisation. This process should be completed by around the beginning of October.
The vast C-5 Galaxy first flew in 1968 and entered USAF service one year later - the USAF being the only air arm to have ever operated it. The C-5M is an updated version featuring new engines, avionics and airframe components. The first of these left earth in 2006 and examples are presently involved in an ongoing flight testing phase.
Armed Forces International's Aviation Expert