A week in Florida for the first planned attempt to catch a Space Shuttle launch, with Discovery scheduled for mission STS-133 on 1st November. Pushed back from the original launch dates in September, to October, before the November attempt, unfortunately further technical problems were to cancel the launch again in the end, with the next planned attempt now in 2011. This left eight days in Florida without that excitement, though of course there are still plenty of other things to make up for the dissapointment in the Sunshine State! Starting in Miami, the drive up the East Coast would take in many familiar places, heading up as far as Daytona Beach, before on to the Orlando area and back down to Miami.
DAY 1 THURSDAY 28TH OCTOBER
Arriving into MIA quite late, there was just time for a good look along the Northern perimeter FBO's and ramps. A couple of nice old freighters photographed were FedEx B727-200F N469FE and based IFL Group Convair 580F N991FL, while biz-jets included Cessna 550 Bravo XA-CAP, Brazilian AF VC-99C (EMB-135BJ) 2580, Magic Johnson's nice hush-kitted Gulf 3 N32MJ (he wore #32 for the LA Lakers), Learjet 45XR XA-RIU in demo colours, and US Army UC-35C 00-1053 from Andrews AFB.
DAY 2 FRIDAY 29TH OCTOBER
A full day at MIA, starting with another look along the Northern perimeter FBO's and ramps, provided a few more biz-jets, including Gulf 550 XA-EAJ, as well as a couple of parked airliners. Vision Airlines B737-400 N742VA was on a maintenance ramp, while AeroSur B767-200ER CP-2521 is stored on the NE ramp, next to Commercial Jet. Also, nearby was the battered nose section of DC-8-63F N784AL. Formally of Arrow Air, who unfortunately ceased operations in June, this is all that remains of this classic after being scrapped. From here, it was then on to the well known photospot along the SW perimeter, next to the Eldorado furniture store, for runway 09 arrivals and departures.
Highlights here included Tampa Cargo B767-200SF N768QT, LAN Colombia Cargo B767-300SF N312LA, Amerijet B767-200SF N743AX (delivered in June), China Airlines Cargo B747-400F B-18706, ATI B767-200F N763CX (leased from last month), Sky King B737-400 N916SK, Amerijet B767-200SF N741AX, Capital Cargo B757-200PCF N605DL, Amerijet B727-200F(WL) N994AJ, Atlas Air B747-200SF N522MC, Estafeta Cargo B737-300F XA-ECA, Tampa Cargo B767-200SF N767QT, Air France A320 F-GKXC (one of two based in Guadeloupe), Insel Air MD-83 PJ-MDA, Surinam Airways B737-300 PZ-TCO, Centurion Cargo MD-11F N988AR, Sky King B737-400 N773AS (delivered in June, after being WFU by Alaska Airlines at Victorville in March), AeroMexico Connect ERJ-145LU XA-ZLI, LAN Ecuador B767-300ER(WL) HC-CGZ, LAN Cargo B767-300ERF(WL) CC-CZZ, ABX B767-200SF N747AX, Lufthansa B747-400 D-ABTK, British Airways B747-400 G-BNLS with 'Dreamflight' logo, Insel Air MD-82 PJ-MDC, Tampa Cargo B767-200SF N769QT, World Airways MD-11ER N278WA on WO9700 from Atlanta, Avianca B767-200ER N728CG with special 'Colombia es passion' tail logo, Bahamasair B737-200 C6-BFW, Air France B747-400 F-GISC, Amerijet B727-200F(WL) N395AJ, all white Sky Lease Cargo MD-11F N950AR (delivered to Tradewinds in June, before merging with/as Sky Lease), AeroMexico Connect ERJ-190AR XA-CAC, TACA ERJ-190AR N982TA, Alitalia B767-300ER I-DEIG, ABX B767-200SF N312AA, Centurion Cargo MD-11F N984AR, ABX B767-200SF N742AX and TAM A330-200 PT-MVN. Finally, a quick look along the Northern ramps before sundown, produced Hewa Bora B767-200ER 9Q-COG, which had arrived on 1st July for a check with Commercial Jet. Parked behind was classic Congo Government B707-138B 9Q-CLK, which had arrived a month later for a major check (now with the engines removed), unfortunately not on for a shot today.
DAY 3 SATURDAY 30TH OCTOBER
The look along the Northern perimeter FBO's and ramps first thing at MIA, produced a few nice Mexican biz-jets, with classic Sabre 60 XA-TSS, Falcon 20F-5 XA-RHA, Falcon 50EX XA-PRR and Gulf 450 XA-GMX. A great start, followed by an interesting find around one of the hangars, with an ex Allegiant Air MD-80 forward fuselage section, having the cockpit converted to a simulator. Then heading the short distance up to Opa Locka for a good look around, this was to be followed by the long drive up to Melbourne, around 165 miles up the coast, with stops at North Perry, Boca Raton, West Palm Beach, Witham Field and St Lucie en route.
As always, Opa Locka provides a lot of interest, with those photographed including ex Northwest DC-9-31 N919RW. This was painted into PAWA Dominicana colours, after arriving from storage at Mojave, but the deal fell through, and it remains parked here with engines removed. Parked next to it was another ex Northwest DC-9-32, N927RC (previously stored at Mojave). A more recent arrival is Arrow Cargo DC-10-30F N450ML, joining a couple of others here following the company ceasing operations, while just arriving yesterday was ex Gemini Air Cargo DC-10-30F N607GC from storage at Roswell. Now registered to Global Air Logistics, it is still in full Gemini colours, who ceased operations in 2008. Other airliners present included Magnicharters B737-300 XA-UNR, now parked here after only being delivered in May, and ex GOL B737-300 PR-GLQ which arrived in August. Of the longer term retired aircraft, DC-8-61F S2-AEK still lives on, after the deal with Bismillah Airlines fell through, and has now been parked here for six years (despite the FAA register showing it 'exported to Swaziland'!). NEBA B737-200 TU-TAW is another victim of a failed deal, after being registered two years ago, but remains parked with an uncertain future now. Former Gulf Air B767-300ER N181AQ (ex A9C-GI) is also parked, in basic colours, after arrival from storage at Dublin a year ago. Also, of the B727's present, N696CA now registered to Paxair, has been re-painted this year (ex Champion Air), but remains parked up, while Amerijet's N199AJ is parked engineless, mostly all white with SRX (the An-12 operator based here) titles still visible after being removed (another deal NTU?).
Onto the great variety of biz-jets present today, visiting were Beechjet XA-GOB, Cessna 750 XA-FGL fitted with 'Elliptical' winglets, Cessna 525B M-OODY, BAe125-1000A N168WU, Beechjet N800GV with 'World Reserve Monetary Exchange' logos, HS125-700A N10UC, 'Cipriani' CL601 N997GC, sleek 1974-built Learjet 25B N98RS, while present inside open hangars were resident BBJ1 N920DS, and classic Westwind 1124A N818JH. Also, of the many vintage biz parked around, old Gulfstreams included Gulf 2B N302DP, 1970-built Gulf 2SP N888YZ, 'Z-Line Designs' Gulf 3 N18ZL, Gulf 2TT N985BB, Gulf 3 N378SE, and ancient 1968-built Gulf 2 YV1681 which was receiving some maintenance and looks in great condition. Next door, outside the Jetstar Aviation Services hangar, two of their classics were present, with Jetstar II's N275MD and 'Team Dezer' N777AY 'Dezer One' also looking great. Finally, one tasty biz-prop present was Bolivian Beech E90 CP-2494. Awesome place!
On to North Perry, the Broward County Community College here has B727-100F N150FE donated by FedEx. Arriving here in Jan 2006 by road from Fort Lauderdale, following its final flight from Memphis in March 2004, it was later re-assembled for the Aviation Institute, and painted into their colour scheme, now looking very nice, fully complete. As well as this, a little surprise here was British Virgin Islands Police Pa-31-325 VP-LAW, presumably imported for the US register. Next stop was Boca Raton, a fairly busy executive airfield, where another surprise was Blackpool based Falcon 900EX G-JMMX of J-Max Air. Among the other biz was Cessna 550 YV2246, possibly impounded. On to West Palm Beach for a quick stop, Beech 1900D N45AR was photographed outside the small terminal used by AUTEC (Atlantic Undersea Test and Evaluation Center) for regular flights to Andros Town, Bahamas. Supporting the US Navy facility on the Island, Gulfstream International are contracted for these flights, with a couple of Beech 1900D's used, which can usualy be seen here. Carrying on North, Stuart Witham Field is another reasonably busy executive airfield, with a few more regular US biz-jets photographed. With the sun getting down, i then made it to St Lucie in time to shoot nice based Gulf 2SP N951RK with 'Lynx Aero Group' titles, as well as a paint-stripped Cessna 550 outside the paintshop here. From here it was straight on to the hotel, further North in Melbourne, following a lot of miles on the road.
DAY 4 SUNDAY 31ST OCTOBER
Today came the bad news that the Shuttle launch was cancelled tomorrow, resulting in some re-planning for the next couple of days. Starting with a look around Melbourne, ex Royal Navy Canberra TT18 N77844/WJ574/844 has been parked here for several years. WFU by FRADU in 1992, it was then sold privately in the States in 1994. Later sold to Aero Group at Tulsa for trials work, it is now registered to the National Aviation Museum and Foundation of Oklahoma, Tulsa. However, with the aircraft pretty much abandoned here, its future is uncertain. As well as this, more de-mobbed aircraft are a group of around 30 ex US Army Hueys in storage with a company here, after previous storage at Dyncorp in Temple, Texas.
Heading North, Titusville 'Space Coast Regional' had some nice surprises waiting, with several aircraft present connected with the Shuttle launch. Zero-G B727-200(WL) N794AJ 'G-Force One' is operated by Amerijet, with its presence here no doubt coinciding with the launch. One of four main locations for operations (the others being Las Vegas, Fort Lauderdale and San Jose), a 'weightless flight experience' can be booked for around $5K. This very smart classic has been modified for this role, with three padded 'floating zones' in the forward cabin, as well as 38 seats in the rear. Also present was United Space Alliance Sabre 65 N696US, which is a regular here (along with N697US) for Kennedy Space Center visits. The company is a NASA industry partner, with the aircraft based in Houston. Two more biz-jets then photographed, were very nice all grey Falcon 7X N786CS (based in Seattle), and HS125-700A G-CFBP with a 'hippy peace flag' on the fin! Finally, the USCG MH-65C detachment here had 6545 'Savannah' and 6605 'New Orleans' on station.
With today being the Cocoa Beach Airshow, i then headed down to nearby Patrick AFB to hopefully catch a few of the show aircraft there. In the end a based HC-130P and HH-60G were photographed returning after giving role demo's. From here, it was back to nearby Melbourne for another quick look, with late Sunday hopefully being a good time to get a 'discreet' shot or two! Based here is the Northrop Grumman operated E-8C 90-0175/JS, named 'Eye In The Sky'. The J-Stars test-bed, now re-engined with JT-8D's is very elusive to photograph, with security here not surprisingly quite tight (with vehicle patrols around the facility). Depending on exactly where it is parked though, quick shots could be possible, with a lot of discretion! Today, it was inside the closed hangar, so was not in luck, though parked outside was another classic connected with the program. Omega Air B707-330C N707HE was the 'B707RE' test-bed, re-engined with P&W JT-8D-219's (MD-80 engines). Not a commercial success, the aircraft then arrived here in early 2009, for the engines to be removed and fitted to the E-8C as part of testing for the J-Stars re-engine program. Following this, its not known what will happen with Hotel Echo, as it remains parked outside here engineless.
DAY 5 MONDAY 1ST NOVEMBER
As well as the two Boeing classics here, a similar Douglas classic was due in today, which my plans had been arranged to catch. ATI operate through here on a Monday, with DC-8 Combi's routing from Toledo-Express to Antigua as ATN530 for the US military, supporting the USAF Eastern Range facility on the Island. With runway 09R in use today, i found a photospot for landing shots around this end, with DC-8-62CF N799AL arriving as scheduled. After catching the arrival, i then waited to shoot the departure, though unfortunately there was no bonus of the classic Boeing test flying today! Certainly a day of quality, not quantity, the only other aircraft photographed today would be at the next and final stop today, New Smyrna Beach, around 70 miles up the Coast. Here, DC-3A N600NA is parked for sale, though looking a bit tatty after being present for several years now. Fitted with a 28 seat VIP interior, it needs major wing work, which has no doubt put off any potential buyers. From here, it was straight on to the hotel for the night, at nearby Daytona Beach, though just because the city is famous for its motor racing, didn't mean i had to go and get pulled over by the cops for speeding on the way!
DAY 6 TUESDAY 2ND NOVEMBER
After paying my ticket first thing, it was back to the airport, where i had arranged a visit to photograph a resident classic. Previously there were a few former Trans Florida Airlines Convairs parked here, though these days just another one remains, Convair 580F N905GA. Registered to RPG Airlift/Geo Air, it appares to be in good, complete condition, with the hope to get it airworthy again in the future. We'll see! Nearby, sitting on the grass, is another old classic which certainly won't fly again, the fuselage of 1965-built F-27-200 N278MA. Still in the colours of last operator, Eagle Airways, it was previously derelict at Opa Locka, before ending up here, with 'Oceania' titles now applied. Before heading off, an active classic was visiting this morning, so waited to catch the Delta DC-9-51 N781NC departing, before on to DeLand, 15 miles to the SW.
The home of Skydive DeLand, all the jump aircraft were inside today, apart from one Twin Otter, temporary resident DHC-6-200 N321CY of Sky Dive New England. Also present, are two real vintage biz-jets. Given access to the ramp to photograph them... 'just be careful of the wasp nests'!, 1974-built Westwind 1123 N30156 is parked next to ancient 1969-built Commodore Jet 1121B N805SM. Both long-retired, some may remember the latter when registered as F-BTDA back in the Seventies and Eighties, when painted all black! On to Sanford, around 25 miles South, the weather was pretty grimey today, with some heavy rain en route, though it started to clear fairly quickly. Photographed in the rain then, was Gulf 3 N951XF (previously Italian AF), while among the retired airliners present for salvage with Avocet, were ex NWA DC-9-31 N9333 which had arrived in August, ex Centurion Air Cargo DC-10-30F N279AX (the one time BCal G-BHDH), an ex DHL A300-200F with all logos and reg covered, and ex DHL/Vensecar B727-200F YV154T. Being originally Mexicana XA-DUJ, this is fitted with the RATO system for 'hot and high' operations, with the hump on the top rear fuselage clearly visible. This rare JATO rocket version of the 727 had boosters fitted to the rear of the main landing gear, as well as the fuselage hump, housing re-routed air con pipes.
The final stop of the day, was Apopka, around 25 miles to the West. This 'tin field' has its runway right next to the highway, the W Orange Blossom Trail, and is home to another old classic. One of the former Trans Florida Airlines Convairs that escaped the axe at Daytona Beach, 1949-built Convair 240 N1022C was transported here by road in Sep 2009 for the US Airline Industry Museum (their only aircraft present). Still in ex TFA colours, it has now received a Pan Am tail logo, with the hope to repaint the whole aircraft in time, as well as restoring the interior. From here, it was straight to the hotel at Orlando MCO, around 30 miles to the SE.
DAY 7 WEDNESDAY 3RD NOVEMBER
A busy airport for regular airline traffic, my visit to Orlando MCO first thing this morning wasn't for any of this, but chasing more classics. As well as a few retired here, which needed to be photographed before it was too late, for the time being, there are also some classic freighters operating here. Operating DC-8-73CF's for DHL, Astar Air Cargo are based here, with N807DH photographed today, while also present, was active Kalitta Charters II B727-200F N723CK. Unfortunately no longer active, are a pair of executive BAC1-11-200's, which have been parked WFU for a while now. Still in great looking condition, N200EE and N200JX are registered to Elite Express, with 200JX being the oldest airworthy 1-11 in the world (until its final flight on 1/7/09). It was also the first BAC1-11 delivered to Braniff, as N1541 in 1965, before executive conversion in 1971. Another BAC1-11-200 present here, though not photographed today, is ex US Air N1117J, which is used by the Fire Department for training. Not surprisingly, this place is also fairly busy with biz-jet traffic, though most are difficult to photograph parked up. A couple that were managed though, were old Gulf 3 N221WR and US Army UC-35A 96-0107 from NAS Willow Grove.
From here, it was back South to Fort Lauderdale, around 200 miles down the Coast, with stops at Titusville, Vero Beach, St Lucie, West Palm Beach and Boca Raton en route. Present at Titusville was the other United Space Alliance Sabre 65 N697US, visiting from Houston. While here, a quick visit was also made to the Valiant Air Command museum, with the resident 'Heavy Metal Jet Team' also present, with their CT-133 and L-39C's parked outside. Vero Beach then just had some regular NetJets biz to offer, before on to St Lucie (Fort Pierce), where biz-jets present included the two old Learjets of resident American Jets Air Ambulance. Of course, the highlight of any visit here is Missionary Flights International, a church-based company headed by President Dick Snook (a Vietnam veteran on EC-47's), which operate several DC-3's. Mainly flying regular aid flights to some of the poorer Caribbean Islands, especially Haiti, not surprisingly they usualy offer a warm welcome to visiting aircraft enthusiasts. Photographed today were DC-3-65TP N200MF parked outside, piston DC-3 N400MF parked inside, while similar N300MF was out, performing an FAA check ride. As well as these, a few other classic props present, were rare Riley Turbo Skyliner (Heron conversion) N416SB, still with Norstar titles (of course a non-flyer), along with three former US Navy Grumman Albatross. All looking in great condition, HU-16 N7927 is the oldest present, built in 1955, HU-16B N10GN has history with the German and Indonesian Navy's, while HU-16E N117FB was last operated by Chalks International.
On to West Palm Beach, with the rest of the afternoon coming in a bit overcast, a few shots here included Gulf 550 SE-RDY, Greg Norman's Gulf 550 N1GN arriving, and Marines KC-130T 164441/NY from Stewart ANGB. Boca Raton then provided more nice biz, with Gulf 3 N300JZ built as the G3 demonstrator (on the G2 production line) in 1981, Gama Legacy G-PGRP, 'Stage 3' Learjet 25D YV1346, and a couple of Falcon 20F-5's, N132EP and N633KA. Finally, Fort Lauderdale Exec then provided a few more, including Gulf 3 N83PP named 'Favor of God' and Cessna S550 YV2692.
DAY 8 THURSDAY 4TH NOVEMBER
The final day of the trip, starting at Fort Lauderdale, again with mostly overcast conditions. A look around the perimeter provided a few nice aircraft, including Suburban Air Freight Beech 1900C N253SF (from Fairbanks), Locair Metro III N227ML, 'Bluewater Partners' Falcon 50 N187PN, old Gulf 3 N171TV, Sabre 65 N921CC (WFU?), colourfull Metro III N200PT, based GB Airlink Skyvan N80GB, and similarly, a couple of other old classics used for Island runs, with DC-3C N15MA and Beech BE-18T N961GP both having 'operated by Monarch Air Group'. The Dak has 'My Pal's Mail Express' nose art, and was only registered in June, after being an Opa Locka resident since the 90's. As for the Beech 18, this is a bit special, being the only PT6A-20 conversion with the conventional landing gear (tail-dragger) retained. Finally, a couple of shots 'over the fence' onto the Air Sunshine ramp, with engineless Saab 340A N792BA looking freshly painted, along with YS-11A N914AX, one of four of the ex Airborne Express classics WFU here since the late 90's.
Finally, on to Miami, where arrivals were inbound from the East, onto runway 26R/L. Photospots to catch these are not as easy, though near to the George T Baker Aviation School does offer some options for 26R arrivals. First then, a quick look at the school's latest arrival, donated American Airlines MD-82 N234AA, which arrived in May after being lifted by crane across LeJeune Road from MIA. Then, before returning the rental, a few final landing shots provided a couple of very nice arrivals, with Sky Way Shorts 360 N383MQ, and Mexican Navy Gulf 450 AMT-205. Awesome! Fantastic way to end a trip that was always going to be overshadowed by the dissapointment of the Space Shuttle launch being cancelled. Florida just can't fail to impress though, with so many highlights over the week. As for the Shuttle... consider that unfinished business!