(Photo: 109th Air Wing)
It looks like a snake unhinging its jaw to eat something that is just too big. But, yes, that’s a military cargo plane inside another military cargo plane. It’s the fuselage of a C-130 from the Rhode Island National Guard being fitted inside the belly of a C-5 Galaxy from the New York Air National Guard. The Rhode Islanders, no longer needing the C-130, offered it to the New Yorkers—provided that they could transport it. With careful planning and special equipment that they built, the loadmasters were able to slide the C-130 inside. The 109th Air Wing Public Affairs unit describes the effort:
The most challenging part of the process Sergeant Preece faced was obtaining a certification letter from Wright Patterson Air Force Base, Ohio. He needed to prove that transporting the C-130 would be possible.
"I explained to them about the hydraulic unit we installed to lower the nose gear to prove that we could raise the mains and deflate the struts to get it to sit low enough," he said. "And then we had to build a shoring kit which was monstrous.
Building the shoring kit took about three weeks, and Tech. Sgt. Brian Irvin, another 139th AS loadmaster, helped figure out how they would build the kit.
"I would estimate that the entire shoring kit weighs about 22,000 pounds," Sergeant Irvin said. "The shoring kit angles and how we stepped it up was a lot of math and mental work. We had to get the fuselage approaching the C-5 at approximately the same angle as the C-5 floor. With such small clearance, if you're going in off-angle it's not going to work. It had to be very precise. We got copies of the flight manuals of the C-5 and we built the shoring kit to match that."
Sergeant Preece received the OK from Wright-Pat and all the hard work and preparation was finally tested Sept. 8 when the crew went down to Rhode Island to load the training fuselage.
"It went very smoothly loading the plane," Sergeant Preece said. "They gave us an eight-hour timeframe, and I think we did the whole thing in four hours."
"There was a lot of planning, I think we did a very good job anticipating as much as we could possibly ahead of time," Sergeant Irvin said. "Any time you are loading something that big with a couple inches to spare in clearance, there are going to be things you didn't think of.