Here's what it takes to change the 28 tires on the Air Force's largest plane - We Are The Mighty
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Here’s what it takes to change the 28 tires on the Air Force’s largest plane

How many airmen does it take to change a cargo aircraft tire? Too many, according to J.D. Bales, Air Force Research Laboratory and Junior Force Warfighter Operations team member of the Materials and Manufacturing Directorate.

The 60th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron, part of the Air Mobility Wing at Travis Air Force Base, California, who maintain the US Air Force’s largest aircraft, the C-5M Super Galaxy, contacted the JFWORX team seeking assistance to increase the safety and decrease the manpower requirements of the current tire-changing process.


Each C-5 tire wears down approximately 0.002 inches per landing on an aircraft that has 28 tires. The current tire changing method is performed several times a week. It is a complicated multistep procedure that requires up to five people working together for an extended period of time with a number of safety risks due to the size and weight of the tires and tools.

The design of the hub consists of a single large nut that holds the wheel in place. Heavy tools ensure placement of the wheel (almost 4 feet in diameter). The spanner wrench, used to tighten the nut, weighs 15 pounds and has to be held accurately in position so the nut can be tightened to the appropriate torque specification.

Here’s what it takes to change the 28 tires on the Air Force’s largest plane

The rear wheel assembly of a C-5M Super Galaxy aircraft inside a hangar at Travis Air Force Base, California, March 13, 2019.

(US Air Force photo by Heide Couch)

Here’s what it takes to change the 28 tires on the Air Force’s largest plane

Current C-5 cargo airplane tire replacement requires up to five airmen with a multitude of tools to replace a tire, Aug. 26, 2019.

(Air Force Research Laboratory/Donna Lindner)

Here’s what it takes to change the 28 tires on the Air Force’s largest plane

The new C-5 cargo airplane tire replacement platform requires only three airmen with one tool to replace a tire, Aug. 26, 2019.

(Air Force Research Laboratory/Donna Lindner)

Here’s what it takes to change the 28 tires on the Air Force’s largest plane

The nose and main landing gear tires of a C-5M Super Galaxy hang over a parking spot at Dover Air Force Base, Delaware, June 25, 2015.

(US Air Force/Roland Balik)

Here’s what it takes to change the 28 tires on the Air Force’s largest plane

Two 30-ton tripod aircraft jacks hold up the nose section of a C-5M Super Galaxy, at Dover Air Force Base, Delaware, June 25, 2015.

(US Air Force photo/Roland Balik)

Here’s what it takes to change the 28 tires on the Air Force’s largest plane

Airman 1st Class Vincent Gaspara, left, and Nathan Shull, center, and Tech. Sgt. Andrew Hamilton, right, all crew chiefs assigned to the 436th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron, remove a C-5M Super Galaxy main landing gear wheel and tire assembly, at Dover Air Force Base, Delaware, April 22, 2014.

(US Air Force/Roland Balik)

Here’s what it takes to change the 28 tires on the Air Force’s largest plane

Airman 1st Class Vincent Gaspara, left, and Tech. Sgt. Andrew Hamilton, right, both crew chiefs assigned to the 436th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron, install a new C-5M Super Galaxy main landing gear wheel and tire assembly at Dover Air Force Base, Delaware, April 22, 2014.

(US Air Force/Roland Balik)

Here’s what it takes to change the 28 tires on the Air Force’s largest plane

Airman 1st Class Vincent Gaspara, left, and Nathan Shull, center, and Tech. Sgt. Andrew Hamilton, right, all crew chiefs assigned to the 436th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron, secure a C-5M Super Galaxy main landing gear wheel and tire assembly to the main landing gear bogie at Dover Air Force Base, Delaware, April 22, 2014.

(US Air Force/Roland Balik)

Here’s what it takes to change the 28 tires on the Air Force’s largest plane

Airman 1st Class Nathan Shull, 436th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron crew chief, cleans the number four main landing gear bogie assembly of a C-5M Super Galaxy, at Dover Air Force Base, Delaware, April 22, 2014.

(US Air Force/Roland Balik)

Here’s what it takes to change the 28 tires on the Air Force’s largest plane

Tech. Sgt. Andrew Hamilton, front, 436th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron crew chief, inspects the main landing gear brake assembly of a C-5M Super Galaxy at Dover Air Force Base, Delaware, April 22, 2014.

(US Air Force/Roland Balik)

Here’s what it takes to change the 28 tires on the Air Force’s largest plane

Airman 1st Class Vincent Gaspara, 436th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron crew chief, rolls a defective C-5M Super Galaxy main landing gear wheel and tire assembly, at Dover Air Force Base, Delaware, April 22, 2014.

(US Air Force/Roland Balik)

Here’s what it takes to change the 28 tires on the Air Force’s largest plane

A defective C-5M Super Galaxy main landing gear wheel and tire assembly prior to being taken away for maintenance April 22, 2014, at Dover Air Force Base, Delaware, April 22, 2014.

(US Air Force/Roland Balik)

The primary technical focus of JFWORX projects is the rapid development of customer-centric projects that will provide real-world solutions to existing warfighter needs.

JFWORX develops near term, innovative solutions to warfighter operational needs. Department of Defense organizations interested in working with the JFWORX team can contact the Materials and Manufacturing Directorate’s Corporate Communications team at AFRL.RX.CorpComm@us.af.mil to learn more.

The Air Force Research Laboratory (AFRL) is the primary scientific research and development center for the Air Force. AFRL plays an integral role in leading the discovery, development, and integration of affordable warfighting technologies for our air, space, and cyberspace force. With a workforce of more than 11,000 across nine technology areas and 40 other operations across the globe, AFRL provides a diverse portfolio of science and technology ranging from fundamental to advanced research and technology development. For more information, visit: www.afresearchlab.com.

This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.

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