Wednesday, February 4, 2009

The C-5A

After being stationed at Hamilton AFB for a year and a half and in Bien Hoa , Viet Nam for a year at the busiest airport in the world, I assumed I had seen and/or refueled every military aircraft there was. But you know what assume does for you. After Viet Nam , I came back to the states and my assignment was to report to Altus AFB in Oklahoma . Wow, I was pleasantly surprised … until I arrived. Once at Altus , I got to see one of the largest airplanes ever (pictured above). And, of course, working in POL (petroleum, oil and lubricants) I got to defuel, and defuel and defuel one of the largest planes ever. And, believe me, it takes a while to defuel a C-5A.
Until I arrived at Altus AFB, I never knew airplanes had headlights. (Chuck Hudlow probably did, since he worked in a traffic control tower at a major airport such as DFW), but my house in Altus wasn’t far from the base and one could see forever looking south, because the terrain was so flat. One day, I was standing outside and far in the distance I could see two lights approaching. They continued to get closer and closer.
By the time I realized it was an aircraft it was near landing at the base. I couldn’t believe my eyes, it was enormous. Altus AFB was a training site for the Air Force’s newest plane, the C-5A. Before long, I found out how big a C-5A was from up close. Huge doesn’t do it justice. It’s something like six stories high and two football field long and can carry a full squadron and its equipment. I had seen plenty of C-141s in Nam and KC-135s at Hamilton , and they’re big, and even B-52s in Okinawa en route to Nam , but they all paled in comparison to a C-5A. It was so new to the Air Force the bugs hadn’t even been worked out yet. For instance, the landing gear often came down before it was supposed to, tearing up the bottom of the plane, etc. and it was POL’s job to defuel it. The first one I pulled up next to for defueling took several truck loads and easily one entire shift. Night or day. On the nightshift, it got pretty cool standing on the flight line defueling a C-5A. Refueling wasn’t quite as bad.
My stay at Altus was anything but pleasant, although I didn’t have to go back overseas anywhere or do battle in another war. All in all it enabled me to get a discharge with my health and pretty much all my sanity, though that is sometimes debatable. Just ask Cynthia.


At February 4, 2009 at 2:51 PM , Blogger Bill Hinds said...

Hey John - I know it has to be pretty incredible to see a C-5A up close. My nephew, John Hinds flew one of those while he was in the Air Force. He is retired from the Air Force now and works on the KCS there in Heavener.

At February 4, 2009 at 5:47 PM , Blogger Glen Lazalier said...

The C-5A has had an impressive history,

John, in the early days one of them literally "lost an engine" when the rear retaining bolt failed and the engine pivoted on the front pins at the beginning of a takeoff roll. It went virtually straight up till the fan lost its motive force and then came down behind the aircraft that fortunately had moved on in the interim. That happened at Altus.

Aircraft have been my passion all my life. From the SR-71 and the Concorde to the fighters and bombers the Air Force and Navy fly--I love 'em all!


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