Air Mobility Command has grounded the C-5 Galaxy cargo planes operating at Dover Air Force Base in Delaware after a nose landing-gear unit malfunctioned for the second time in 60 days.
The stand-down order, issued Monday, affects all 18 C-5s stationed at Dover — 12 of them are primary and six are backup aircraft, according to a release.
The Air Force has 56 C-5s in service.
“Aircrew safety is always my top priority and is taken very seriously,” Air Mobility Command’s chief, Gen. Carlton D. Everhart II, said in a release. “We are taking the appropriate measures to properly diagnose the issue and implement a solution.”
An Air Mobility Command spokesman told Military.com that both malfunctions involved C-5M Super Galaxy aircraft. On May 22 and again Saturday, the planes’ “nose landing gear could not extend all the way,” the spokesman said. The C-5M was introduced in 2009 and is the latest model of the C-5.
Air Force personnel will perform inspections “to ensure proper extension and retraction of the C-5 nose landing gear,” Air Mobility Command said. The halt applies only to C-5s at Dover, and Air Mobility Command said it would work to minimize the effect on worldwide operations.
The C-5 is the Air Force’s largest airlifter. It has a 65-foot-tall tail and is 247 feet long with a 223-foot wingspan. The first version, the C-5A, entered service in 1970, and several models have joined the fleet since then.
The C-5M was given more powerful engines, allowing it to carry more cargo and take off over a shorter distance. It can haul 120,000 pounds of cargo more than 5,500 miles — the distance from Dover to Incirlik Air Base in Turkey — without refueling. Without cargo, its range is more than 8,000 miles.
In recent years, budgets cuts and sequestration compelled Air Force leadership to begin taking C-5Ms out of service.
Everhart, the Air Mobility Command chief, said in Marchthat total C-5 inventory had fallen to 56 from 112 a few years ago.
But the Air Force has made moves to reverse that deactivation, saying it plans to move at least eight mothballed C-5Ms back into service, using newly allocated funds, over the next four years.
That return to service would partially overlap with an upgrade project for the active fleet of airlifters that is slated to wrap up in 2018.
“I need them back because there’s real-world things that we’ve got to move, and they give me that … added assurance capability,” Everhart told lawmakers at the end of March.
This post has been updated.