News>Feature - The Super Galaxy fleet: pilots’ perspective
Airman 1st Class Aren Stinebuck, a crew chief with the 436th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron, marshals a C-5B out of its parking spot for a four-day mission March 8, 2012, at Dover Air Force Base, Del. This was the last active-duty C-5B mission flown at Dover AFB. The 9th Airlift Squadron will now exclusively use the C-5M Super Galaxy for local training, state-side and overseas missions. (U.S. Air Force photo/Roland Balik)
Lt. Col. Richard Ciaramella, a pilot with the 9th Airlift Squadron, configures the pilot's center console control panel switches on a C-5B Galaxy aircraft prior to takeoff March 8, 2012, at Dover Air Force Base, Del. Ciaramella was one of five pilots assigned to the last active-duty C-5B mission flown out of Dover AFB. The 9th Airlift Squadron will now exclusively use the C-5M Super Galaxy for local training, state-side and overseas missions. (U.S. Air Force photo/Roland Balik)
A C-5M Super Galaxy is parked on the flightline Oct. 14, 2011, at Dover Air Force Base, Del. Seven C-5s took off between Oct. 14 and Oct. 20 as part of a United States Transportation Command-wide 41-plane C-5 surge. (U.S. Air Force photo/Adrian Rowan)
by Airman 1st Class Samuel Taylor
436th Airlift Wing Public Affairs
4/12/2012 - DOVER AIR FORCE BASE, Del. -- The rising sun peers over the Dover Air Force Base, Del., flightline as Capt. Andrew Kramer, flight commander with the 9th Airlift Squadron, and his aircrew are driven out to the aircraft. The team awoke mere hours earlier for an alert call. Now, his mind is on the mission: its flight path, cargo and objective. One thought that does not enter his mind is, "what if we can't take off?"
This is because he is a pilot in the 9th Airlift Squadron, the first all C-5M Super Galaxy squadron in the Air Force. The C-5M, the epitome of American heavy airlift capabilities, is famed for its reliability and proven track record of success; this is in part due to its advanced engines and avionics that has made possible signature missions like polar over-flights and direct channel missions to contingency operations overseas.
"The M-model can be summed up in four words: confidence, credibility, cohesion and capability," said Kramer. "Cohesion of various base agencies ensures capability; capability breeds confidence for aircrews and leadership; confidence fosters credibility within the Air Force, the public and the international community."
Like the phrase "confidence breeds confidence", the C-5M's reliability has had a ripple effect on fostering beneficial relationships between various members of the C-5 team.
"A more reliable aircraft helps build on the positive relationship between maintenance and operations personnel simply because less needs to be done," said Lt. Col. Rip Rucker, chief of C-5 standards and evaluations with the 9th AS. "It is easier to move the mission, and there is less contention about sitting in one place for four days while maintenance is performed because it happens less, if at all. It doesn't pay to have a plane sitting on ground."
When the planes don't go, the cargo doesn't flow. It is that simple when talking about the base that sends millions of pounds of cargo into the theater of operations annually. In order to make this mission happen, Dover AFB's pilots must consistently be in the "go" mentality while on the job - any reservations about the mission are not tolerated or, with the C-5M, necessary.
"Professionally, there is no difference in the way we approach missions when talking about aircraft- everything is planned on us going; subconsciously, the reliability of the M-model suppresses that nagging feeling of 'what can go wrong?' that pilots of other aircraft may experience," said Rucker.
And it is this confidence that allows the 9th AS to do the jobs that has made it famous, such as providing essential supplies to Japan following its deadly earthquake in 2011, and airlifting helicopters from Naval Station Rota, Spain, to the Middle East and back again.
"When there is an important strategic requirement that needs to be delivered, the go-to plane is the C-5M," said Maj. William Jones, a chief pilot with the 9th AS. "The confidence is not just ours; it has grown to encompass our leaders as well. They know the [9th AS], and therefore Dover AFB, will get the job done on time."