Story and photos by Scott Jankowski
AirVenture always pulls together some very large and unique aircraft and 2023 was no different. In this article we will take a closer look at the common and not so common “heavy” aircraft that were part of the flying and static display this year. AirVenture 2023 had several large and oversize aircraft both civilian and military in the static display and also participating in the afternoon airshows.
The U.S Military always provides several tanker and large transport assets, and this year once again they included the second largest airplane in the world. The Lockheed Martin C-5M Super Galaxy which was part of the static display and is assigned to the 60th Air Mobility Wing based out of Travis Air Force Base CA. The 60th Air Mobility Wing has operated the C-5 since 1970 and has operated the “M” model since 2008 and features new avionics, upgrades to the aircraft skin, landing gear, engine pylons and many more. The most notable difference with the “M” model is the use of four General Electric CF-6-80C2-L1F engines which offers significant performance improvements over the old engines. The C-5M has a maximum payload capacity of 281,000 pounds and has a maximum takeoff weight of a staggering 840,000 pounds.
The Boeing C-17A Globemaster III has become an annual attender of AirVenture, and this year featured aircraft on static display and in the weekend airshows. Both examples are part of the 97th Air Mobility Wing based at Altus Air Force Base OK. This tactical and strategic airlifter has impressive short field capabilities and has a 170,900-pound payload.
The venerable Boeing KC-135R Stratotanker was also part of the static display and weekend airshow. The KC-135 first flew in 1956 and entered service in 1957, with the current “R” model able to carry 200,000 pounds of jet fuel to offload via either flying boom or drogue refueling methods. The KC-135R on display was part of the 128th Air Refueling Wing based at General Mitchell International Airport down in Milwaukee WI. The 97th Air Mobility Wing provided the KC-135R for the weekend flying display along with the Boeing C-17A Globemaster III. The 97th Air Mobility Wing is responsible for all KC-135 pilot and aircrew training.
*Please note the images of the aircraft from the 97th Air Mobility Wing were shot at General Mitchell International Airport in Milwaukee.
The final “heavy” that the U.S. Military provided in the flying display was the eight engine Boeing B-52H Stratofortress. The B-52 has been in service since 1955 and has an impressive unrefueled range of over 8,800 miles. The B-52 is also capable of dropping or launching the widest array of weapons in the U.S. inventory and is expected to be in service past the year 2050. The B-52H that performed the fly by on Friday is part of the U.S. Air Force Reserve Command’s 307th Bomb Wing based at Barksdale Air Force Base LA. There are a total of approximately 80 B-52H’s still in active service today.
We turn towards commercial aviation now with Delta Airlines having a 2018 built Airbus A350-941, registered N508DN on static display. This 442-seat widebody transport is powered by a pair of Rolls Royce Trent XWB-84 Turbofan engines which give the A350 a maximum range of 9,600 miles. Delta 9995 Heavy arrived and departed for Detroit MI on July 25th.
The next heavy which was a very welcome addition to the static lineup was Purchase NY based Atlas Airlines Boeing 747-4H6LCF (Large Cargo Freighter) registered N718BA. This is one of four specially converted and modified Boeing 747-400F’s that Atlas currently flies for Boeing Aircraft. These aircraft were modified to transport Boeing 787 parts between the United States, Italy, and Japan. These heavily modified 747’s have a volume of 65,000 cubic feet and can hold three times that of a typical 747-400 Freighter. Aptly named the “Dreamlifter” it has a maximum payload of 250,000#’s and has a range of 4,800 miles. Giant 4366 heavy arrived from and departed to McConnell Air Force Base KS.
The last heavy or outsized cargo transport is the NASA operated Aero Spacelines Super Guppy Turbine registered N941NA. The outsize cargo aircraft first flew in 1965 and was developed from Boeing 377 Stratocruiser. The Super Guppy Turbine’s cargo bay dimensions are 111ft X 25FT X 25FT and is powered by four Allison 501-D22C Turbo-prop engines. This is the only Super Guppy Turbine left flying and was formerly operated by Airbus Industries to transport aircraft parts to its main production facility located at Toulouse France. The nose of the Supper Guppy Turbine can swing open 110 degrees for easy loading and unloading, this aircraft is currently based at Houston Ellington Field which is near the Johnson Space Center.
AirVenture always attracts several large and very unique oversized “heavy” aircraft both civilian and military. Look for additional AirVenture coverage to come. Until next time, “Blue Skies to All!”