C-5M Super Galaxy #86-0013 undergoes extreme
heat and ultraviolet exposure testing at the
McKinley Climactic Laboratory in late 2007.
Photo: Greg Murry
11/21/2007 - EGLIN AIR FORCE BASE, FL -- Blazing
desert heat. Sub-zero arctic chill. The Air Force's
largest transport aircraft. All this tucked into the
world's largest environmental testing chamber where
tests can be conducted without a mile being flown
during a unique series of tests conducted at the
McKinley Climactic Laboratory from Oct. 21 through
Nov. 17 here.
The C-5M Super Galaxy will undergo testing to
determine the durability and functionality of
subsystems and engines new to the airframe.
An aggressive program to modernize the C-5. The C-5
Avionics Modernization Program began in 1998 and
includes upgrading avionics to Communications,
Navigation, Surveillance/Air Traffic Management
compliance, improving navigation, communication, and
safety equipment, and installing a new autopilot
system. Another part of the modernization plan is a
comprehensive Re-engining and Reliability Program,
which includes new CF-6 engines, pylons and auxiliary
power units, with upgrades to the aircraft's skin and
frame, flight controls, landing gear and
This modernization program will enhance aircraft
reliability and maintainability, maintain structural
and system integrity, reduce cost of ownership and
increase operational capability well into the 21st
century, according to an AF Link article published
Nov. 26, 2006. Once the data is collected, it will be
sent to Lockheed Martin engineers for review and to
possibly improve to this upgrade on a 35-year-old
Solar radiation panels are hung over C-5M
Super Galaxy #86-0013 to create extreme heat
and ultraviolet exposure at the McKinley
Climactic Laboratory in late 2007.
Photo: Wendell Rowan
The main challenge the engineers and crew faced while
setting up the C-5M in the hangar was getting it
inside, since the C-5's tail is taller than the door
opening and some of the structural piping in the
"We looked at the (specifications) of the hangar and
compared them to the (specifications) of the C-5 so we
knew it would fit but we just didn't have anyone with
experience from the test in 1969," said King Molder,
McKinley Climatic Laboratory test engineer. "It was a
little like trying to figure out how to put the pirate
ship in the bottle."
The significance of completely moving a C-5 inside
the hangar is noteworthy.
"This is the only place on Earth where a C-5 can be
in a controlled climate," said Kirk Velasco, McKinley
Climatic Laboratory Flight Chief. "There is no other
facility around that can house this airframe in a
fully enclosed building for climatic testing."
The tests are a landmark for the climatic lab as it
is the first time since 1969 a C-5 has been contained
completely inside the hangar and the first time in the
history of the laboratory that a C-5's engines were
run while in the hangar.
This capability enables developmental testing on an
aircraft with full weather predictability.
"Here, guaranteed, our customers are always going to
get exactly what they need," said Mr. Velasco. "If
they order extreme heat in the dead of winter, they
will get it."
Conceived during World War II and completed in 1947,
the site provides facilities for all-weather testing
of weapons and ancillary equipment to ensure their
function regardless of climatic conditions. The hangar
has the capability to drop in temperature rapidly or
mimic Mother Nature with a gradual lowering (as low as
minus 70 degrees Fahrenheit) or rising (as high as 180
degrees Fahrenheit) of temperatures. The C-5M is
currently in the largest of six operational chambers
available to both the military and commercial
For the testing on the C-5's avionics and engines,
Lockheed Martin requested temperatures remain at a
steady state to determine how the new technology held
up in the extreme spectrums of the temperature chart.
This new initiative has paired the military up with
Lockheed Martin to help generate the changes necessary
to keep the C-5 a functional and successful member of
the Air Force fleet. Lockheed Martin requires the C-5M
to have tests conducted on the new engine
modifications and avionics fitted for the aircraft
upgrade. These tests require testing in conditions of
extreme cold reaching minus 40 degrees Fahrenheit and
in extreme heat reaching over 150 degrees Fahrenheit.
The extreme heat is generated by more than 90 solar
panels mounted over the aircraft to accurately display
"The reason these specific temperatures were
requested is because most aircraft have technical
problems occurring when they are in environments which
favor the extreme temperatures," said Mr. Molder.
"We're always cautious with the extreme cold and
conducting engine testing as fuel controls tend to
freeze and there's the added risk of damage to the
The tests come two years after the initial baseline
testing was conducted in the hangar on the upgraded
avionics system. Lockheed Martin will use these
results to compare against the latest findings to
further refine and improve the airplane.
"Currently, there are only three C-5Ms in production
and testing similar to what is being conducted at
(McKinley Climatic Laboratory) are necessary to
continue making upgrades to more of the airplanes,"
said Dwayne Bell, McKinley Climatic Laboratory test
Source: USAF Press Release by Staff Sgt. Stacia