Somehow, engineers figured out how to outfit it with six giant jet engines and 290-foot wings ... and well, it's kind of a building that flies.
These days, some of its cargo includes huge equipment for oil drilling operations all over the world. It's been spotted in places as widespread as Ireland, Moses Lake, Washington; and Houston, Texas. Take a look at this jaw-dropping video of Mriya coming in for a landing last May at Houston's George Bush Intercontinental Airport. It may leave you speechless.
Sometimes these big planes come outfitted with a little bit of humor. Consider NASA's Super Guppy: a huge cargo aircraft that's just plain funny looking. Instead of jets, this thing relies on four turbo-propeller engines that allow it to reach 230 mph at low altitudes.
The airplane loads and unloads through its nose, which opens up with the help of giant hinges on its left side. The Super Guppy is based near Houston at Ellington Field Joint Reserve Base, but it's been recently spotted at Houston's Hobby Airport and at Seattle's Boeing Field and elsewhere.
We can't ignore the Hercules H-4 Flying Boat (aka "The Spruce Goose") -- described as "the largest airplane ever built" -- which flew just once for about 60 seconds at an altitude of 70 feet traveling a little more than a mile.
The 320-foot wingspan of the all-wooden plane eclipses anything flying today. Could it fly again? It never completed certification test flights. We'll never know if the brainchild of reclusive billionaire Howard Hughes could have become a useful, viable working aircraft. More than 65 years after that famous flight, you can still see it on display at the Evergreen Aviation & Space Museum in McMinnville, Oregon.
Back at Dover Air Force Base, Air Mobility Command Museum deputy director John Taylor had big news to share. No museum anywhere has ever obtained a C-5 to put on permanent display. Until now.
"We're going to get the first C-5," Taylor said, barely able to contain his excitement. "It will be the crown jewel of the museum when it arrives. We will be only museum in the world to have a C-5 on display."
He wasn't talking about just any C-5. This plane's tail reads 9014, an aircraft Taylor helped keep flying decades ago when he was a mechanic.
The plane is set to arrive some time in October, and Taylor expects it to be on public display about a month later. Eventually -- perhaps as soon as next spring -- visitors will be able to board the C-5 and perhaps sit in the cockpit.
"We want to allow visitors to get on board this aircraft, to touch this aircraft, to experience the size of it," said Taylor. "That's what we're all about. It's our obligation to preserve these planes for future generations."
Although Taylor insisted it wasn't planned, a novelist couldn't have written a better full-circle ending.
After all this time, C-5 No. 9014 will return to the former airman who for years cared for this majestic, gravity-defying giant.
As Taylor put it, "We're awful lucky that it happened that way."