Mystery Surrounds Very Large Military Cargo Transport Plane Spotted at San Angelo's Mathis Field
SAN ANGELO, TX — A U.S. Air Force C-5 Galaxy cargo plane was seen on the tarmac at San Angelo Regional Airport this morning with its tail towering above many of the hangars there. The C-5 is the largest aircraft in the USAF inventory and at 237 feet long it is 12 feet longer than an Airbus A380 superjumbo jet, according to Popular Mechanics.
According to FAA records, the C-5 landed at Mathis Field last night at 10:45 p.m. and the flight originated in Balboa, Panama.
C-5s landing at Mathis Field are unusual in eras of normalcy, but during the COVID-19 pandemic, a C-5 sighting at a small regional airport in west central Texas draws suspicion.
“Are they transporting virus-stricken people to San Angelo?” was the question we were asked. “I heard they were looking for a bunch of rental cars to transport 70 people,” was another rumor offered.
None of this is true. We called Bruce Burkett, head of security at the airport, and he offered the scoop.
The C-5 was transporting a drone for the Customs and Border Protection Air and Marine Operations. The CBP operates the MQ-9 Predator B UAS from Mathis Field for counter-narcotics operations (more on that mission here). The C-5 was returning one of the drones from a temporary operations area, Burkett said.
The C-5M seen on the ramp at Mathis this morning can carry a cargo load of 281,001 pounds and has a range of 5,524 statute miles without aerial refueling. It has a maximum takeoff weight of 840,000 pounds. For comparison’s sake, a B-52H has a maximum takeoff weight of 488,000 pounds. The C-5’s cargo today, the MQ-9 UAS, weighs 4,901 pounds empty.
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