There's a fascinating article over at Foxtrot Alpha titled 'What It's Like To Fly America's Biggest Jet, The Gargantuan C-5 Galaxy'. It goes into great detail on how one gets to fly it, the sort of missions it undertakes, the current modernization program for the jet, and many other aspects of the plane.
What I hadn't realized was how extremely complex the planning, preparation for and execution of a C-5 mission can be. It involves far more than just the flight crew. Here's an excerpt giving more details.
The C-5 is also a massive demonstration of the coordination required to do any mission. There will be multiple pilots, engineers, loadmasters and crew chiefs on every mission. The pilots primarily maneuver the airplane. The engineers are key, they know the ins and outs of every system on the plane and how to make it work best. They control the fuel balancing, the pressurization, cooling and the expansive high pressure hydraulic systems. They also calculate the takeoff and landing data for the pilots. They are super smart and I could not do their job.
The loadmasters are masters of their craft, knowing how to build a load onto a jet in the most efficient and safe manner, along with complexities like if there are multiple destinations for the cargo and how to arrange it so that it can be unloaded efficiently. They regularly have to use trigonometry to create nests of chains to distribute the weight of strange shaped or super heavy cargo so that it won’t move in any axis in flight. They figure out how the airplane needs to be configured to load and unload best, does it just need to stay as is, or level kneel so that the bottom of the jet is only inches from the ground, or forward kneel to create a smoother ramp surface to unload rolling stock.
The crew chiefs are flying representatives of our ground maintenance and the airplanes are their babies. They know how to fix any of our problems and how to interface with the local maintenance to get the jet fixed and back on the road in a timely manner. Along with all the aircrew, the C-5 relies on all the various types of ground crews, from the airmen that empty the latrines to the ones that refill the liquid oxygen and nitrogen systems and who replace our tires, to the ones in base ops that file flight plans and provide weather and knowledge about the locations we’ll be going. It’s a complex undertaking to get a C-5 mission on the road and it takes the teamwork of many personnel in order to ensure that the mission occurs successfully. Overall, our support is awesome.
There's more at the link, along with many photographs and a video clip. Very interesting reading for aviation buffs, and of real value for those interested in military logistics.