CHICOPEE, Mass. (WWLP) – You may hear Westover’s C-5 aircraft fly over your house but never really know where their headed or what the mission is. 22News Reporter Laura Hutchinson flew with them in the cockpit to give us an inside look at one of their training missions.
22News was the only TV station positioned in the cockpit as this massive C-5 Galaxy aircraft took off out of Westover Air Reserve Base Thursday. The mission was to refuel from another aircraft while about 20 thousand feet in the air.
Lt. Col. David Smith told 22News, “The air refueling mission is unique in that it’s not used often, mostly in a time of war, or if the airplane has to get someplace and it doesn’t have time or the convenience to stop and refuel on the ground.”
- Photos: Flying with Westover ARB
This was a training mission that allowed several pilots to get practice lining up with a KC-135 tanker aircraft from a military base in Maine. They practiced flying the plane within 25 feet of each other and lining their equipment up just right to get fuel from that plane into the C-5. Not an easy task which makes these training exercises crucial.
(So, how did it go today?) “It went good; I was a little rusty but felt good once I got up there flying,” said Maj. Philip Chestnut. “This is much harder on a plane, it’s a lot bigger and harder to control but on the other end it’s scarier seeing a big C-5 come up behind.”
A C-5 Galaxy can last 14 hours in the air on a normal tank of gas but when they’re able to refuel in the air like this, it allows them to carry out missions more efficiently.
It can take 3-6 hours to land and refuel and when time is of the essence, pilots need to know how to do this in a pinch.
Westover C-5 pilot Jeff Cavaioli said, “For me, repetition as often as I can do it, helps to build the hand-eye coordination and air refueling is an experienced-based skill. The more you do it, the better you’ll be.”
A C-5 is the largest U.S. military aircraft that can carry 265 thousand pounds of cargo, but the more cargo they need to bring somewhere, the less fuel they can have in the tank, making fill-ups in route a critical skill for pilots.
KC-135’s are assigned to nearby units from Pease Air National Guard Base in Portsmouth, New Hampshire and Bangor International Airport in Maine.