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Peninsula Aero Club’s 2020 Tyabb Airshow Was A Community Event

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On Sunday 8 March, the Peninsula Aero Club at Tyabb Airfield, in Association with Paul Bennet Airshows and Sponsor IOR Aviation, ran their latest airshow with benefits to the comunity including Funflight, for children with severe health issues, Angel Flight, providing free transport for sick people from remote communities, Tyabb CFA, suicide prevention through Chasing Change and other community-based organisations.

As always, it was a great venue with most areas reached along the single crowd line within minutes. Local pilots support the airshow with donated air time and display aircraft on the ground. Tyabb has always had a nice range of vintage and antique aircraft, and has many unique warbirds, several having been restored here.

The display line was nice and close, making all aircraft types very accessible – we had a C.152 aerobatic demonstration, “Larry” the Might Bell 47, and even a RAAF C-17A Globemaster touch-and-go, nobody remembers seeing one of the latter so low at an airshow! Victoria Police Air Wing and, oh, the UFO….

Formations were very much order of the day – two early ones which remembered PAC members Peter Phillips and Ido Segev who were lost in a recent in-flight collision – the “GA tribute” featuring medium twin GA aircraft and a formation featuring some of the airshow participants. The Tiger Moth formation was unfortunately cancelled to a sharp cross wind, but we saw RAAF heritage trainers (CT-4A, Winjeel and ring-in Harvard)…

and the magnificent, warbird “Balbo” (T-28, Boomerang, P-40F and -N, P-51 Mustang, Spitfire Mk.VIII, TBM-3E Avenger, s/n53857 and Corsair). The “communist” formation team also set a fine pace.

Being a “Paul Bennet show”, there were aerobatics galore, with the Wolf Pitts (Paul Bennet), S-1S Special, Rebel 300 (Glenn Graham), “Skyblazers” Pitts S-1-11B Super Stinker (13-time Australian aerobatic champion, 5-time World champion, Chris Sperou), Southern Knights (T-6) , Cessna A152 Aerobat VH-UNP (Gerard Lappin) and the RAAF Roulettes (PC-21) from Central Flying School, RAAF Base, East Sale. Victoria Police Air Wing Dauphine VH-PVH executed a nice departure.

Despite the crosswind and afternoon backlight issues, a great day was had by all, and with an estimated 9,000 attendees, it was clearly a well-supported and successful airshow. The Royal Australian Navy Band supported this event as well.

Photorecon.net would like to thank the Peninsula Aero Club, the media team and in particular, Mr Ian Johnson, for making their facilities available both during and after, the show. #tyabbairshow

BLUEBEARD 5

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BLUEBEARD 5, the sole remaining RH-53D survivor of Operation EAGLE CLAW

There is a rare and unique helicopter that sits vigilant as a gate guardian at the Wrightstown Gate of Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst (JB MDL) in New Jersey. However, the very existence of this helicopter and how it become displayed at Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst New Jersey is an interesting story.

Those familiar with the Sikorsky H-53 family of aircraft may have trouble identifying this particular aircraft model. This H-53 is a short fuselage model equipped with two engines and an in-flight refueling probe. It’s appearance strongly resembles a U.S. Air Force HH-53C Super Jolly Green Giant. It is however displayed in a Marine Corps color scheme from the early 1980’s. Even more peculiar is this Sikorsky began its service life with the U.S. Navy. This aircraft is a RH-53D Sea Stallion helicopter, bureau number (BuNo) 158754.

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What is not well-known is that the RH-53D served with both the Navy and the Marines. The Sikorsky RH-53D was developed in 1973 to fulfill the Navy’s need for an upgraded Airborne Mine Counter Measures (AMCM) helicopter. The Navy borrowed nine CH-53D’s from the Marine Corps and converted them to the RH-53D model for testing. After the trials were completed the Navy ordered thirty new build RH-53D’s from Sikorsky. By 1990 the Navy acquired the newer and more powerful CH/MH-53E model for AMCM duty. The Navy divested their RH-53D’s to the Marine Corps Reserve so they could retire their aging CH-53A.

BLUEBEARD 5

The Marine Reserve Squadrons flew the RH-53D until they acquired their own CH-53E’s, retiring the last of the RH-53D’s in 1997. This aircraft’s final duty station was with Marine Heavy Helicopter Reserve Squadron (HMH-772) at Naval Air Station (NAS) Willow Grove in Horsham Pennsylvania. When it was retired, this aircraft was put on display there. With the Base Realignment and Closure (BRAC) of NAS Willow Grove, both HMH-772 and this static display were relocated to Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst in New Jersey in 2011.

Except for a small plaque at the base of this RH-53D, very few would ever know of the lasting impact that this very aircraft had upon U.S. Military Special Operations (SPECOPS).

April 24th marks 40 years since the launch of Operation Eagle Claw, the attempted rescue of American Hostages from Tehran Iran. This Sea Stallion is one of the eight U.S. Navy RH-53D’s that participated on the mission. It is infamously known by its mission callsign of BLUEBEARD 5.

The mission plan called for the rescued hostages and Delta Force to evacuate Tehran aboard the helicopters to Manzariyeh Airport south of Tehran. Once there and safely upon the two awaiting U.S. Air Force C-141 Starlifters, Delta Force was to destroy all of the helicopters with thermite grenades.

In November 1979 the Operations Planning Group (OPG) were tasked with creating a military rescue plan. The OPG first considered the use of the U.S. Army’s CH-47 Chinook utilizing staging areas from either Turkey, Kuwait, Bahrain or Saudi Arabia. These locations were ruled out for both political and security concerns.

Arguably as the mission was being planned in November 1979, the U.S. Air Force had the best SPECOP helicopter available. The Air Force had begun receiving the Sikorsky MH-53J ‘Pave Low III’ into its Special Operations Squadrons in March of 1979. The Pave Low III had the ability to conduct low-light, low-level, all-weather flights consistent with special forces operations. It was equipped with GPS, inertial navigation and Forward-Looking InfraRed (FLIR) thermal imaging and an APQ-158 terrain-following and avoidance radar. It also had improved armor protection for the crew and the aircraft systems. However, the MH-53J was judged to be an unproven technology. It also was unable to fold its tail and rotors, a crucial requirement for shipboard storage.

File Photo: RH-53D in later US Navy use

Ultimately the Operations Planning Group selected a similar airframe, the Navy’s RH-53D Sea Stallion. With operational security (OPSEC) heavily factoring into the selection, it was believed by the OPG that the presence of a Navy helicopter force aboard a carrier wouldn’t draw suspicion. A cover story of their presence could be easily explained away as mine sweeping duty. More importantly, the RH-53D had the required payload, range and was capable of being launched and stored aboard an aircraft carrier. The Navy’s airframes would eventually have their glossy paint schemes camouflaged in a flat brown paint absent of any markings. Coincidentally, the Iranian Navy operated six RH-53D helicopters, so the appearance of a RH-53D in Iranian airspace would not necessarily be cause for alarm.

The eight aircraft selected were from Navy Helicopter Mine Countermeasures Squadron HM-16 (HELMINERON 16) stationed at NAS Norfolk’s Chambers Field. The participating helicopters would all be known on the mission by their callsigns: BLUEBEARD 1 – 8 (Bureau Numbers (BuNo) 158744, 158750, 158753, 158754, 158758, 158761, 158686, and 158693).

Within two weeks of the start of the crisis, six of the helicopters were rapidly airlifted to the island of Diego Garcia in the Indian Ocean. As the U.S. Navy aircraft carrier Kitty Hawk passed within range of the island the helicopters were flown aboard. These six helicopters were later transferred aboard the aircraft carrier Nimitz when it arrived on station. The Nimitz already having two RH-53D’s aboard boosted the force to eight aircraft.

It was wrongly assumed that using an already established Navy helicopter unit would give the mission the quickest possibility of launching a rescue mission. This notion was quickly dispelled as the Navy flight crews did not have any assault training. The Navy crews were only experienced with conducting mine sweeping and onboard replenishment missions. U.S. Marine Corps CH-53 pilots and crews were quickly brought onboard to help the Navy crews get up to speed with the mission parameters. This however still did not garner the results the mission planners were hoping for. Since the rescue mission could be launched at any time, more pilots and crews were recruited from the Marine Corps. Eventually all eight RH-53D’s would be crewed by Marines assigned to Marine Heavy Helicopter Squadron Four-Six-One (HMH 461), Task Force 1-79.

BLUEBEARD 5

BLUEBEARD 1 – 6 did the bulk of the training for the mission as BLUEBEARD 7 and 8 were resigned to being ‘Hanger Queens’. This meant they were cannibalized for parts to keep BLUEBEARD 1 – 6 flying. Just before the mission there was an all-out effort to get BLUEBEARD 7 and 8 flight worthy as well.

The Air Force supported the helicopter mission directly with six EC/MC-130’s. The plan was for three EC-130E Command Solo aircraft callsigns REPUBLIC 4 – 6 to carry the logistical supplies to Desert One. Three MC-130E Combat Talon aircraft callsigns DRAGON 1 – 3 carried the Army Rangers for force protection and Delta Force to rescue the hostages.

The mission parameters and forecast for the helicopter route was for clear visibility, however that was not to be the case. The mission launched from the deck of the Nimitz in the Arabian Sea, some 50 nautical mile (NM) off of the Iranian coast. The flight route was nearly 600 NM to Desert One.

Approximately two hours into the mission BLUEBEARD 6 was the first helicopter to experience an issue. The crew encountered a BIM (Blade Inspection Method) warning light. The BIM light indicates a possible loss of nitrogen in the rotor blades and the crew was forced to make a precautionary landing. Unknown to the Marine flight crew was that the RH-53D rotor system had different operating parameters than the Marine Corps CH-53A/D. The BIM warning light on the RH-53D does not necessitate the termination of a flight as the Marine’s CH-53A/D would. The RH-53D parameters called for a reduced speed but not the termination of flight. Had the Marine aviators been aware of this BLUEBEARD 6 could have continued on. The crew of BLUEBEARD 6 sanitized and abandoned their aircraft before being rescued by BLUEBEARD 8.

Approximately four hours into the mission the flight was in the midst of a second sand storm known as a haboob. BLUEBEARD 5 began experiencing the failure of their primary flight controls and navigational systems. Additionally, their secondary flight controls were sticking in the turns. With visibility reduced to zero, BLUEBEARD 5 became separated from their wingman BLUEBEARD 7. Without use of their instruments nor any visual references, the aircraft became near impossible to fly. The crew of BLUEBEARD 5 made a decision to change their heading and descend to 50’ above the desert floor to avoid a possible mid-air collision. Despite only being 110 NM from Desert One, the crew still had to negotiate over a 9,800 foot mountain range. With fuel reserves running low, BLUEBEARD 5 was forced to abort the mission and return to the Nimitz without breaking radio silence. The crew headed for the Gulf of Oman in case they had to ditch at sea. BLUEBEARD 7 having lost sight of BLUEBEARD 5 conducted a brief search for their wingman before continuing onto Desert One.

The helicopter flight having become separated in flight, arrived at Desert One in different intervals as much as eighty-five minutes late. BLUEBEARD 3 and BLUEBEARD 4 were the first to arrive. BLUEBEARD 7 was next to arrive and presumed when BLUEBEARD 5 hadn’t arrived they must have crashed in the desert. Next to arrive was BLUEBEARD 8 with the crew of BLUEBEARD 6 aboard. BLUEBEARD 1 and BLUEBEARD 2 were last to arrive after having to put down during the haboob.

BLUEBEARD 2 (BuNo 158753) experienced hydraulic leak during the flight which resulted in a hard failure of its primary hydraulic pump. Without a spare nor the requisite time to make the repair, the crew were forced to shut down and abandon BLUEBEARD 2. There were now only five of the eight required helicopters for the mission remaining. The guidelines called for a mission abort if the minimum of six helicopters could not proceed onto Desert Two. With the mission aborted the helicopters were refueled and loaded for a return to the Nimitz.

Desert One is located within the Great Salt Desert near Tabas, Iran. When it was selected and prepared for the Desert One landing zone a few weeks earlier, the salt flat was packed hard and free of loose sand. However, weeks of sand storms covered the landing zone with ankle deep sand that was too soft for aircraft to ground taxi. This required the helicopters to hover taxi into the refueling positions behind the EC-130’s. It was during one of these maneuvers that tragedy struck. While hover taxiing the downwash of the main rotors created a brown out. The pilot’ only reference was a ground controller whom he did not recognize to be backing away from them. The pilot attempted to correct the situation and moved forward toward the ground controller. The main rotors of BLUEBEARD 3 (BuNo 158671) struck REPUBLIC 4 (Tail# 62-1809) igniting a massive fireball, destroying both aircraft and inflicting the rescue force casualties.

BLUEBEARD 1, 4 and 8 were parked near the engulfed wreckage of BLUEBEARD 3 and REPUBLIC 4. The resulting explosions from the ordinance damaged all three of the helicopters. The fire and exploding ordinance had made Desert One too dangerous to remain at. It was determined that BLUEBEARD 1, 4 and 8 were not airworthy and unsafe to sanitize.

With BLUEBEARD 2 already deemed unsafe for flight; that left BLUEBEARD 7 as the only helicopter capable of flight. The rescue force had taken casualties that were in need of advanced medical care. Their presence at Desert One had been compromised. The additional twenty or more minutes on the ground to sanitize and destroy the helicopters was time they didn’t have. The decision was made to abandon all of the helicopters in place and evacuate the rescue force aboard the remaining EC/MC-130’s to Masirah Island Oman as soon as possible.

Upon return to Masirah Island in Oman, the rescue force were greeted by two British personnel bearing two cases of beer. The cardboard case was inscribed with the heartfelt message; “To you all from us all for having the guts to try.” This message was adopted by the 8th Special Operations Squadron (SOS) and hangs today in their Headquarters at Duke Field, Eglin Air Force Base.

To the eight servicemen who gave the ultimate sacrifice on this mission, know that your sacrifice was not in vain and the lessons learned from these warriors and machines have been used to save others. We remember the Airmen of the 8th Special Operations Squadron and Marines of HMH-461 who gave all. U.S. Air Force personnel, Major Richard Bakke, Major Harold Lewis Jr., Major Lyn McIntosh, Captain Charles McMillan II and Technical Sergeant Joel C. Mayo. U.S. Marine Corps personnel, Staff Sergeant Dewey Johnson, Sergeant John Harvey and Corporal George Holmes Jr. .

“Many people would label Operation Eagle Claw a miserable failure. It was certainly a terrible tragedy, in that eight U.S. servicemen died. However to say that it was a failure would be shortsighted, for Eagle Claw ensured the future ability of the U.S. military to conduct high-risk clandestine special operations with the best SOF force in the world.” U.S.A.F. Lieutenant Colonel (Ret.) Richard Radvanyi.

In May of 1980 the Joint Chiefs of Staff commissioned a Special Operations Review Group of Operation Eagle Claw. The report known as the Holloway Report was chaired by Admiral James L. Holloway III, USN (Ret.). The Chairman’s report stated; “The rescue mission was a high-risk operation. People and equipment were called on to perform at the upper limits of human capacity and equipment capability.”

Planning for a second rescue mission known as Operation Honey Badger began immediately. The U.S. Army formed Task Force 158 (TF 158) in 1980. The Army began an intensive training regimen of night flying. Task Force 158 realized there was an immediate need for a Special Forces helicopter with rapid insertion and extraction capabilities. TF 158 sought out the OH-6 Cayuse which had been withdrawn from frontline duty after Vietnam. They quickly procured the Mississippi Army National Guard’s OH-6’s and modified them into the AH/MH-6 Little Bird. The AH-6 was equipped for light attack while the MH-6 could carry 6 troops on external benches.

File Photo: MH-53J Pave Low III

The Air Force ordered all nine of its MH-53J Pave Low III helicopters to Hurlburt Field at Eglin Air Force Base under the command of the 20th Special Operations Squadron. Additionally, six more HH-53B/C and eight Combat Search and Rescue (CSAR) HC-130 Hercules would join the squadron. TF 158 would also join them with a contingent of Army Rangers and Delta Force. Operation Honey Badger was cancelled when the hostages were released on the morning of President Ronald Reagan’s inauguration on January 20, 1980.

While TF 158 was never used, they had given Army aviation the enhanced ability to fight at night. The Army understood this asset was too valuable to disband. Task Force 158 was transformed into the U.S. Army’s 160th Aviation Battalion and eventually became the 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment (SOAR) ‘Night Stalkers’.

Admiral J. L. Holloway III closed his opening statement of his report with the following statement which I believe is most appropriate. “We were often reminded as we deliberated that only the United States military, alone in the world, had the ability to accomplish what the United States planned to do. It was risky and we knew it, but is had a good chance of success and I would close with this thought, which I hope remains true forever.”

I wish to acknowledge United States Air Force Lt. Colonel (Ret.) Richard ‘Radman’ Radvanyi, whose article Operation Eagle Claw: Lessons Learned inspired this piece. I also wish to acknowledge the following reference materials; The [Iran Hostage] Rescue Mission Report (August 1980), commonly called the Holloway Report. The Praetorian Starship; The untold story of the Combat Talon by United States Air Force Colonel (Ret.) Jerry L. Thigpen. On a Steel Horse I Ride, a history of the MH-53 Pave Low helicopters in war and peace by Darrel D. Whitcomb.

For an in-depth look at current and future special operations helicopter development, see this article in expanded form in our recent post in Photorecon.net

Thoughts from Your Editor…

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The COVID-19 virus’ effects upon aviation look rather familiar to me. In fact, this is the fourth time that I’ve experienced a massive downturn and slowdown in theaviation industry during my lifetime. I’m calling it a “forced reset” of the norm. It’s anybody’s guess what the air transportation system will look like in a year or more, but here is what I’ve seen in three previous disruptions, and how some of the effects took time to subside and allow for some “normalcy” again. Plus, there’s some good news in the aviation world that has already uplifted spirits here at home during this fourth iteration. Since our digital reporting and storytelling isn’t “business as usual”, come see what we’ll be doing for you in our three digital aviation magazines (Photorecon.net, ClassicWarbirds.net, CivilAviationWorld.com), as long as these “challenging times” are effecting our passion for aviation.

As an almost thirty-year veteran of the American FAA’s air traffic control system and six more years’ worth of experience in other aviation operations – related positions, I learned the National Airspace System (NAS) was flexible up to a certain level, but to open the flood gates and let the NAS rapidly return to full operations took some planning, and this will undoubtedly reoccur as our system recovers.

 

 

 

I entered the air traffic control field in 1979 as a developmental (trainee). I was in a “leave without pay”  status during the PATCO strike in 1981, which meant that I had completed some basic training, but had yet achieved any certifications. Of course, when offered a full-time job at Boston ARTCC two days after the strike, I accepted it, as that was what my four years of college (including two years as a part time FAA employee) had prepared me for. My first experience of the shutting down of the ATC system occurred immediately after the strike began; general aviation was pretty much grounded, as was most military flight training in the northeastern U.S. Airlines had slots to different airports, and air traffic was slowed to a crawl until people began certifying on ATC positions and increased staffing allowed for more traffic to be released. It took a few years to build back up to pre-strike activity levels. This first “reset” of the NAS was caused by the labor action.

The second dramatic slowdown began on September 11, 2001 after the four hijacked jetliners showed a weak spot in aviation security… and until various security measures were beefed up. The NAS was shut down to all except some military and a few special civilian government aircraft. When my shift started on the 11th, just five hours after the first Trade Center tower was hit, I looked at the first radar display in my field of view. I was amazed that the scope was almost empty. What was normally the busiest traffic hours of a day showed only a handful of aircraft in the entire Boston Center’s airspace, not the usual hundreds. I always thought that the only way that we would clear the skies overhead America would be as a reaction to World War III beginning. The three days after the attacks saw the total grounding of all civil air traffic; it took many months more to get back to “normal” traffic levels of activity. And passenger acceptance of new security processes took even longer. This second “reset” of the NAS was due to an aviation security issue.

The third dramatic downturn was a bit slower than the first two events, but the rise of fuel prices and the 2008 financial crisis in America (and across the globe) led to a dramatic decrease in flying for airlines and general aviation. Many older jetliners were grounded or even retired, and indeed some airlines merged with others, such as the Delta and Northwest Airlines merger in 2008 and Southwest’s 2008 merger with ATA and subsequent 2011 venture with Airtran. Air traffic numbers plunged until economies improved. Large mergers did away with duplicate or competing flights too, lowering flight counts. This third “reset” of the NAS was due to the financial climate in the early 21st century.

And here we are today, with a fourth dramatic downturn due to a world-wide pandemic. Aviation offers a fast and effective solution to travel, but the designs of airports and aircraft have put hundreds of thousands of people together in close quarters every day. This is especially true of large “hub” airports.  As soon as the COVID-19 virus was shown to be passed by person-to-person contact, airlines and airports began increased passenger screenings. Passengers cancelled their reservations en masse. Airlines likewise cancelled flights, even when some passengers needed to fly. Airline ridership is down by 95 to 98 percent by some estimates. There are even empty aircraft being flown on a variety of routes for a number of good reasons. Again, the NAS has seen an enormous drop in flight activity. This fourth “reset” was caused by a worldwide health issue.

In the first three instances, over time the airline industry and aviation as a whole bounced back from the discussed crises. As for this forth reset, I feel that as long as a method to curtail the passing of the virus (or a similar impediment) can be enacted domestically, flight activity will rebound again. It just might take more time than many of us want to see, but “Rome wasn’t built in a day” and methods to keep humans safe from infections might take a while to perfect. Things will take longer for international travel to resume though, which will require the worldwide aviation community to agree upon common measures for flight safety between all countries.

Will there be a further consolidation of airline companies, as financial situations worsen? Will airline ridership rise to levels found just four months ago, or will less people take to the skies? Has on-line shopping and instant business meetings via computer finally removed the need to be somewhere in person, and reduced the number of needed seats between cities (like the demise of the Boston-New York-Washington DC Air Shuttles, when the use of email became widespread and documents weren’t hand carried anymore)? We may see any or all of these questions answered with reduced air travel.

Now for some good news. Even though aviation as a whole has been hammered by the downturn of activity, there have been rays of light shining out of the darkness of the pandemic. Aviation is woven into the fabric of our well being, here are a few ways that people and technology have given hope to us all.

 

Airmen assigned to Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst, N.J., return home after a two week deployment supporting the fight against COVID-19, April 3, 2020. The Airmen were tasked with providing extra help in deployed locations following increased mission requirements due to the pandemic. The aircrew also picked up more than 970,000 swab kits from Aviano, Italy and flew them down to Memphis, Tennessee where they will be distributed to various sites to be tested for Coronavirus. (U.S. Air Force Senior Airman Ariel Owings)

 

The Air Force Times recently ran an article relating the experiences of an Air Force C-17 crew and their aircraft which was operating in the Middle East for a short time. After their assignments were completed, they were given one more important mission to fulfill before going home to Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst New Jersey. On April 2nd, they arrived at Aviano AFB in Italy (a country plagued with COVID-19 illnesses and deaths) for an hour-long stop to pick up 970,000 COVID-19 test swabs destined for the U.S. From there, they flew directly to Portsmouth, New Hampshire and then to Memphis, Tennessee and the huge FedEx air cargo hub at the International Airport. This wasn’t a one-off mission either, it was the eighth time in a two-week period that a military air transport carried supplies from a foreign airport to the U.S… Air Force crews on the ground and in the air support these critical missions.

Eighteen pallets filled with more than 970,000 swab kits from Aviano Air Base, Italy are flown to to Memphis, Tennessee for distribution to various locations to be tested for the Coronavirus April 4, 2020. (Courtesy Photo)

 

The USAF Thunderbirds flew an almost half-hour mission over the city of Las Vegas on Saturday afternoon, April 11th. The route of their flight zig zagged over sixteen hospitals where the battle against COVID-19 was going on, and their flight was a salute to the responders who are on the front lines (nurses, doctors, EMTs, fire and police personnel, etc.). Via social media comments, their flight over the team’s home town really did boost the morale of many of the overworked medical staffers there. The team’s next “performance” is a planned tour overhead some Colorado facilities, near the team’s Air Force Academy flyover for their Graduation. After that, numerous military fly-bys over big cities’ hospitals are being planned through the Springtime.

Other long-ranged flights are making the news assisting with the battle against the COVID-19 virus… A corporate jet flew from China to White Plains, New York via Anchorage, Alaska recently, full of personal protective equipment. A FedEx MD-11 carrying 91,000 pounds of personal protective gear made a one stop flight from China to Manchester, New Hampshire last Sunday too, again, stopping in Anchorage Alaska. The cargo was unloaded by Air National Guard troops and will be distributed state-wide to facilities in need. Days later, the first Boeing Business Jet (BBJ) outfitted to carry freight, made another cargo flight into Manchester, NH… with New Hampshire businessman Dean Kamen, Boeing CEO Dave Calhoun, Governor Chris Sununu and State Representatives Jeanne Shaheen and Chris Pappas on hand.   This was the first use of such a large “corporate” jet (really an enhanced Boeing B-737-700 model, owned and operated by Boeing) for carrying cargo, it brought 500,000 facemasks for distribution within the state. Businessman Dean Kamen was instrumental in making both of these flights occur.

Multiple airlines are modifying large airliners’ interiors to be able to carry light cargo instead of sitting idle on the ground. Just an empty belly on an empty flight can be filled with medical supplies, becoming an ad-hoc freighter, as American Airlines recently did with a couple of their Boeing 777-300ERs.

Other idled passenger airliners are still finding work… like up to ten flights using Lufthansa A-380 and B-747 jets that will carry stranded vacationers and business people back from New Zealand to Germany, due to cancelled flights that stranded thousands of people. The German Government chartered the Lufthansa jets, and America has sent USAF transports to the Caribbean to do the same at some island countries with no current air services after so many flights have been cancelled.

Australia has seen high profile repatriation flights too, with Hi-Fly operating an Airbus A-340 from Uruguay to Melbourne; the cruise ship Greg Mortimer was stranded in South America waters and over half of the 217 passengers and crew aboard the repatriation flight were COVID-19 positive. Chartered by the Aurora Expeditions cruise line,  It just may be the longest A-340-300 flight ever recorded; according to the airline: “9H-SUN  makes history flying 16h 16m from Montevideo to Melbourne, a route of 6700 nm repatriating Australians. The flight took off on the 11th April at 4:44 UTC and landed in Melbourne at 21:00 UTC”.

As many Americans are adhering to “shelter in place” and honoring the banning of “non-essential travel”, shopping at home – on line – has increased some segments of the domestic air freight business. As China begins to open factories and restarts production of essentials like masks, breathing ventilators and other medical supplies again, international air freight will rebound from the lack of “regular” commercial cargo caused by shut-down production lines too. Even the world’s largest aircraft, the Antonov 225, has returned from a two-year refurbishment and is on line between China and Europe, carrying medical supplies.

What does this all mean for you, the aviation enthusiast reading this story? First of all, even though airports are quiet, even deserted, civil and commercial aviation is still doing what it does best – delivering freight and passengers (albeit, many less than normal though), rapidly and timely. Military aviation specialists, whether in the air or on the ground, continue to help bring supplies and people to where they are needed too.

Since there has been an almost complete cancellation of the first half of the North American air show season due to social distancing requests, stories about current events that we ‘d normally share will be few and far between. Current airliner spotting features will also be slower in the offing so we have an alternative plan for some variety in our three digital aviation magazines… Photorecon.net, ClassicWarbirds.net and CivilAviationWorld.com.

Once per month, we’ll offer a feature full of random photos pertinent to that title. We’ll be splashing some great aircraft photos around the internet every month, so please check in often and enjoy! Don’t forget, that all three of our titles are updated weekly. We want you to remember that this “reset” will end, and hope that “back to normal” isn’t too far behind.

During my aviation careers, I had always been deemed as “essential”, meaning that I was expected to work regardless of the situation… labor issues, security issues, financial issues, snowstorms, two New England hurricanes, and even threat of furlough due to Congressional budgetary squabbles. Suddenly, my current job is not essential, and I find myself remaining at home until this pandemic blows over. That’s a welcome change this time around. I hope the thinkers and the doers make this dramatic downturn in aviation activity short lived, and the system rebounds as fast as safety allows it to, for the good of the world.

All of us here wish for the best of health and safety for all those who continue to work in essential aviation jobs, now and after this forced reset ends.

Ken Kula

April 18, 2020

“The appearance of U.S. Department of Defense (DoD) visual information does not imply or constitute DoD endorsement.”

Photos are the Editor’s, except where noted.

 

ClassicWarbirds.net Random Warbird Photos #2

 

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Here’s one of the best air show party tricks ever… an Royal Australian Air Force F-111C doing the ‘Dump And Burn” for an exciting entry into it’s aerobatic routine at an Avalon Air Show. The RAAF retired the last operational F-111 in the world in 2010; the USAF had retired their last version in 1998, when the last EF-111A “Spark Varks” flew.

Here’s our second volume of random warbirds taken by our group of talented photographers. Remember, look for this feature every third weekend of the month here at ClassicWarbirds.net .

 

 

 

Vought F4U-5 Corsair at the Birthplace of Naval Aviation, NAS Pensacola, Florida.

Lineup at San Diego’s Brown Field Municipal Airport prior to 2011’s Centennial of Naval Aviation aerial parade.

 

Modified Hawker Sea Fury and Grumman F7F Tigercat on the Reno – Stead ramp prior to the big air racing week.

 

Douglas A-26 Invader at NAS Pensacola, before the crowds came for the 2010 Blue Angels Homecoming Air Show.

French-built Breguet 1050 Alize anti-submarine aircraft on display at a long-ago Royal International Air Tattoo.

A Dutch warbird, this C-45 was displayed at an Open Day event at RNLAF Leeuwarden.

Curtiss C-46F departs Oshkosh, Wisconsin during the 2012 EAA AirVenture air show.

Fairey Firefly fighter on the Edwards AFB ramp in 2006.

Howard German caught this formation during the 2015 Arsenal of Democracy flyover the National Mall in Washington D. C.

A Navy electronic aggressor, this Douglas ERA-3B Skywarrior is at home in NAS Point Mugu before the base was re-designated a “Joint Base”. 

Part of the National Naval Aviation Museum in Pensacola, Florida, this Grumman F9F-8 Cougar was an early swept-wing jet fighter.

North American F-100F Super Sabre is owned and operated by Dean “Cutter”Cutshall, pictured here at Barnes Municipal Airport in Massachusetts.

This F-102A Delta Dagger was restored by and is on display in front of what was once the main gate of the Connecticut Air National Guard’s 103rd Airlift Wing.

Fokker T-11 trainer on the Edwards AFB ramp at their 2009 Open House and air show.

The military version of the Howard DGA-15P was the GH-3 series of aircraft. This was built in 1944.

 

CASA HA-200 Seata jet trainer in civilian colors over a Titusville, Florida neighborhood during one of the Valiant Air Command’s air shows.

The Commemorative Air Force’s B-29A “FIFI” shines during a low pass.

Goodyear-built FG-1D Corsair operated by the Commemorative Air Force. Seeing a three-bladed propeller is a good spotting tool to differentiate between Goodyear and Vought (normally 4 blades) versions.

General Motors (Eastern Aircraft Division) FM-2 Wildcat was a modified Grumman design during World War II.

 

N190BR Flug+Werks Productions FW190-A8N Replica C/N 99005 Operated by The Military Aviation Museum at Ypsilanti MI..

 

 

N345BG, North American B-25J-30-NC Mitchell, MSN 108-47531, Georigie’s Gal at Ypsilanti MI.

 

Grumman F-14A Tomcat on a gray day at Falmouth, Massachusetts’ former Otis Air Force Base.

The Vultee SNV-1 was a World War II-era basic trainer used by the U.S. Navy. The Army Air Corps used a similar version known as the BT-13.