This Is What It Looks Like When a C-5 Galaxy Nearly Crash-Lands
One of the world's biggest planes, sans nose gear
The top image was reportedly taken on May 22, 2017 at Rota air base in Spain.
Sent to us by a Twitter user — thank you, @asetanton — it shows a U.S. Air Force C-5M Galaxy cargo aircraft, registration 86-0020, after performing a gear-up landing at the Spanish base. The C-5 had suffered an unknown failure that made it unable to extend its nose landing gear.
According to a source who wishes to remain anonymous, while the C-5 was on approach into Rota the nose gear showed a “red wheels” indication. This told the crew that the gear doors were open, but that the gear wouldn’t move.
Photo via The Aviationist
One of the engineers ran downstairs to the fiber-optic scope that the crew uses to verify the gear’s position. The check proved that the nose gear was still up in the gearwell.
After that, the aircrew ran through the emergency extension procedures. One was to use the emergency extension switch located on the flight deck. The other was actuating the hydraulic valves on their own.
The crew tried these procedures while flying a holding pattern for more than an hour. The C-5 reached bingo fuel. The crew had no choice but to land. They attempted to normally cycle the gear numerous times and eventually got the nose gear to extend roughly six inches.
Photo via The Aviationist
On the way in, they ran the “wheels up, crash landing” checklist, which included the nose-gear-up provisions. The provisions have the crew keep the gear up and the doors closed in order to minimize damage. However, with the gear stuck partially extended, this became impossible.
But as luck would have it, the wheels were far enough out that the Galaxy apparently only suffered damage equal to what a car wheel might suffer after scraping a curb.
After the plane came to a complete stop, the aircrew evacuated the flight deck and then assisted the evacuation of the 21 passengers in the troop compartment. Here’s a clip showing the Galaxy as it approached Rota for the gear-up landing.
— Aset Anton (@asetanton) May 23, 2017
The C-5’s nose gear is part of a unique tricycle-type landing gear system consisting of a total of 28 wheels.
It’s a fine piece of machinery consisting of four main units in tandem pairs, each with a six-wheel bogie with two forward and four rear wheels. The main landing gear rotates 90 degrees horizontally in order to fit inside the gear bays after take-off.
This was not the first time a Galaxy performed an emergency landing without fully-extended nose gear. You can find on the internet at least a couple of videos of such gear-up incidents.
The first dates back to August 1986, when a C-5A performed a nose-gear-up landing at Rhein Main air base in Germany.
According to the user who posted it on Vimeo, this incident shut down the co-located Frankfurt airport for at least a couple of hours.
The second incident occurred in May 2001, when a C-5 from Travis Air Force Base diverted to Rogers Dry Lake and safely landed after the nose gear failed.