2011 PARIS AIR SHOW — Here’s Lt. Col. Lee Merkel of Dover AFB, Delaware talking about some the improvements he notices from a pilot’s perspective with regard to the newly renovated Lockheed C-5M Super Galaxy. He was talking to me aboard a C-5M on display at this year’s show. This particular jet was built in the 1980s and served as one of Lockheed’s test jets for the C-5M program in the last decade. It’s one of only five of the Galaxy’s to have recieved the new GE CF6-80C2 commercial engines (with 50,000 pounds of thrust each) and digital flight controls.
While the C-5 re-engining program had its fiscal troubles, the new engines give the plane a 22-percent boost in power, a 20-percent shorter takeoff roll, a 58-percent increase in climb rate and a ten-fold increase in reliability. Can you say serious upgrade? C-5Ms can operate from twice the number of bases as older C-5s and fly directly from the U.S. to bases in Afghanistan with 120,000 pounds of cargo; something the biggest jet in the U.S. arsenal couldn’t do before.
Meanwhile, the digital flight deck brings the cockpit into the 21st century with tech such as GPS navigation system and a glass displays. The modern, GPS-based navigation system means the plane can now be flown in standard commercial air lanes rather than flying under them.
This will keep an aircraft whose first flight happened in 1968 flying until 2040.