The Aluminum Overcast

There are famous airplanes throughout the past 100 years.  The Wright brothers airplane that flew at Kitty Hawk, the Spirit of St. Louis that ferried Lindbergh over the Atlantic, Emelia Earhart’s plane that was lost when she went down.  Of course the are the bi-planes of the Red Baron era, the Messerschmitt’s of WW2, Spitfire’s, Zero’s, F-4 Phantom’s, B29’s, B52’s, X-15, SR-71…all of those planes are pretty “sexy” in terms of their reputation.

Not all planes are built for speed nor are they all flashy.  Some are made for a very specific purpose, and few have fulfilled that purpose better than the C5-A Galaxy, a huge transport aircraft.  It doesn’t look great, but boy is it a workhorse!!!

It is so large that it was given the affection moniker “The Aluminum Overcast” because of the shadow as it passed overhead.

I used to do some work with customers in the Travis area near Travis Air Force base and would watch these behemoths as they did “touch and go’s” at the airfield.  They seemed to fly so slowly that they would fall out of the sky.  At the same time, nimble F-16’s would be doing touch and go’s as well, and they’d execute several laps of the airfield in the time it took the C5 to make one circle.  It was a highly choreographed dance that was fun to watch.

I met the C5 up close and personal at an airshow at Beale Air Force Base north of Sacramento.  It was introduced to the Air Force in 1969 and with recent retrofits and improvements, the newer ones are expected to be in service until 2040.  The cargo compartment alone is 121 feet long, and it was originally designed to carry up to 220,000 pounds of cargo (though that was lowered after cracks started to appear in the wings!)  It’s one impressive machine.  Standing inside the cargo bay is like standing inside the Grand Canyon (well, not quite, but allow me a bit of hyperbole, okay – it’s impressive!!!)

Here’s a shot my wife took of me standing underneath one of the massive engines.  Some day, if you hear a huge roaring sound overhead and find yourself unexpectedly in the shade, look up to see if you’re in the “Aluminum Overcast”.


ON THIS DAY IN HISTORY: in 1792, Ludwig von Beethoven paid 17 cents for his first music lesson.  His teacher was Franz Joseph Haydn of Vienna.

TRIVIA FOR TODAY: the first women flight attendants in 1930 were required to be unmarried, weigh less than 115 pounds and be nurses.



3 thoughts on “The Aluminum Overcast

    1. Oh…interesting. Shooting meteors is VERY difficult…it’s best if you have the kind of equipment that will automatically trip the shutter when light appears, which I don’t have. I’ll leave that to the big astronomical telescopes and the like!!! But thanks for letting me know!!!!

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