Check 1, 2, 3... C-5M completes ground checks, goes airborne same day

  • Published
  • By Jenny Gordon
  • Robins Public Affairs
A C-5M Super Galaxy which had undergone programmed depot maintenance at the Warner Robins Air Logistics Complex recently experienced a rare set of events prior to its return to home station.

Test pilots and flight engineers from the 339th Flight Test Squadron performed a landing gear skid check on the flight line March 18, and later that afternoon they flew and conducted the first flight of a four-hour functional check flight profile.

Both of these major tasks had not been conducted on the same day in more than eight years, according to Dave Nakayama, 559th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron director. 

There's something to be said for the tens of thousands of hours required to return a massive airlifter like a C-5M from the hands of skilled maintainers at Robins back to the field. 

From the C-5 System Program Office's initiation and physical delivery of the aircraft to the depot, to the repair, build-up and final check flights, each time one flies is a testament to those whose sole mission is to ensure the continued safe operation and readiness of the Air Force's C-5 fleet. 

"C-5 functional test mechanics do wonders flying and releasing aircraft in a minimal amount of days, and this reflects directly on the overall condition of the product they receive from the PDM line," said Clark Rau, a 559th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron Production Flight team lead.

This particular aircraft, bound for Dover Air Force Base, included a 70,000-hour work package over a nine month period.  It returned home March 30. 

Lt. Col. John Grady, C-5 flight commander with the 339th FLTS at Robins, explained on the first day an aircrew receives an aircraft, lengthy ground operations (inspections and checks) are typically conducted, a process that can take from eight to 10 hours. The first check flight usually occurs the following day.

However, on March 18, all ground checks were completed by early afternoon, and the plane was able to get airborne the same day.

One of the items on the long laundry list of items that must be examined or performed on every aircraft that comes out of PDM is the skid, or brake check. Test pilots basically take an aircraft out on the runway, accelerate it to about 40 knots, and then slam on the brakes.

"What we're checking on is the functionality of the aircraft brake system," said Grady. "We have an anti-ski system to prevent tires from locking up when pilots slow down on the runway. We put that through a very rigorous check to ensure it functions the way it's supposed to." 

This process takes about three hours.

The flight portion goes through just about all of the aircraft's systems - flight controls, engines, avionics, and landing gear - with the flight profile usually lasting from three to three and a half hours. These inspections include flying the aircraft on different courses and at different speeds and altitudes.

Senior Master Sgt. Pat Cioffi, a C-5 flight engineer, has worked with the flight test squadron since 2008.

"Compared to other airframes, we basically test the same types of systems," he said. "Engines, gears, avionics and flight controls - if any of these are removed then put back into an aircraft, we thoroughly test these."  

With the diverse mission of bringing an aircraft like a C-5M back into service, the work continues year-round at the 559th AMXS and the WR-ALC. 

"The Air Force relies heavily on the great men and women of places like the Warner Robins Air Logistics Complex to ensure we can continue to support our warfighters serving around the globe," said Nakayama. "I am proud of our team, a team that also includes the SPO, CMXG, DLA, AMXSS, and the 78th ABW to name a few, for accomplishing this feat and showcasing the excellence that our professional maintenance force delivers each and every day."