Florida February-March 2011
Following the visit to Florida to try and catch the launch of Space Shuttle Discovery four months earlier, i had decided to give it one more go, with the hope that it would be third time lucky. With only three launches remaining, in this final year of the Space Shuttle program, time certainly was running out to witness the spectale. Infact, it was going back to last July when i had first tried to catch a launch, as part of another trip to the States, when it was Endeavour that was first scheduled. So, here we go again, determined to catch what must be one of the most amazing sights and sounds in aviation and space flight. With a ten day trip planned, Florida of course doesn't need much of an excuse to visit, being a fantastic State for the aircraft photographer. So, as well as the day on the Space Coast, a good tour along the East Coast was also planned.
The main event though was the huge expectation of catching the Shuttle, and following the earlier delays, confidence was now high that the launch, re-scheduled for Thursday 24th February at 1650, would go ahead as planned, with no other known problems to resolve. Repairs to the external fuel tank had been completed, following the cracks which had led to a hydrogen leak and ultimate cancellation of the previous launch attempts in November. Thankfully, as the launch neared this time, there were still no other issues being reported, which could have led to more dissapointment. Of course, there are still many things that could cause problems, or even scrub a launch, right up to the last second, as indeed there was to be...
DAY 1 TUESDAY 22ND FEBRUARY
Again, kicking off in Bahrain, first flight was BA124 to Heathrow, operated by B777-200ER G-VIIX, departing at 0215 and arriving 7 hours later at 0615L. Connection was then onto AAL57, operated by B777-200ER N795AN, off at 1000 and arriving at Miami 9.05 hours later at 1405L. Straight off to collect the hire car, an upgrade to a Chevrolet Equinox SUV was gladly accepted, being even better for the step ladders in the back. With the Home Depot being very close to the NE perimeter at MIA, this is an ideal place to pick up a good pair of these.
And so, with a couple of hours of good daylight remaining, in the typically nice Florida weather, i headed straight to the photospot at the SW perimeter for landing shots onto runway 09R (next to the Eldorado furniture store). Highlights included the first shots of another 'new' B767 freighter, which dominate here these days. Florida West took delivery of B767-300F N422LA in early November (shortly after my previous visit here), which is actually leased from LAN Cargo, and retains the polished bare metal fuselage of previous operater, JAL Cargo (being ex N633J). Now looking fantastic in the latest Florida West scheme, it joins their other B767-300F(WL) N316LA, which has been operated since Jan 2002 in a normal white-fuselage scheme. Still on B767-300 freighters, another of interest present during this trip was Euro Atlantic Cargo CS-TLZ, which has been operating in South America for LAN Cargo since last April.
As the sun began to fade, i then took the usual drive along the Northern perimeter to see what could be photographed on the FBO and MRO ramps. Still present, in storage next to the Commercial Jet ramp, is AeroSur B767-200ER CP-2521. This has since been joined here by all white B737-200 N205AU, which was last operated by Frontier Airlines, before being WFU in Sep 99. After being used by Boeing for stress tests, it has now arrived here following storage at Alexandria Airport, LA. Also present on this Eastern ramp was Ryan International B767-300 N123DN, which may of been awaiting attention with Commercial Jet, with another parked just outside their hangar. All of these could be photographed in this area, quickly with discretion, although the other very elusive aircraft with Commercial Jet remained defiant! Congo Government B707-138B 9Q-CLK arrived way back on 1st August last year, and more than seven months later is still here. Sometimes parked inside the hangar or just outside, photographs are very difficult to get, and contacting the company for access came to nothing. The aircraft appears complete externally, in its new '707' Dreamliner-style scheme, though is still engineless. One rumour is that it is awaiting upgrade with more modern engines, though this is not confirmed. As if this classic isn't enough, also present now were executive B707-330B N88ZL of Lowa Ltd, which has received maintenance and a new colour scheme (and now looks ready to leave), as well as Mexican Federal Police B727-200 PF-401/XC-MPF, which is painted in an all black scheme, and was still inside on a major check. Frustrating as hell, to end the day with none of these being photographed though!
DAY 2 WEDNESDAY 23RD FEBRUARY
Following the long journey, i had a hotel booked on the Northern perimeter at MIA, and after a good nights rest the plan today was to make it up to Titusville, where i had tonights hotel booked. Following a quick look around MIA first thing, it was up to Opa Locka for the first look around there, before making one more stop, at Fort Lauderdale Executive. These two places can take some time to do, so after FL Exec it was straight up to Titusville, a journey of over three hours, not wanting to make it up there too late. The first, quick look along the Northern FBO/MRO ramps at MIA then, produced a few nice shots, with sweet Mexican Lear 45XR XA-EFM the highlight among the biz-jets. Two other good shots, difficult to get, were of the Albanian A320 ZA-RED previously operated by short-lived Star Airways, which arrived here in January and now has N301LF on the left side only, and National DC-8-71F N872SJ which was outside on maintenance (and still present when i left on 3rd March). Three other classic freighters also photographed, were the FedEx B727-200F and MD-10-10F, as well as the always welcome IFL Convair 580F.
From MIA, it was the short drive up to Opa Locka, where another great visit was to be had, in the glorious weather. Firstly, among the retired airliners was a recent arrival, with all white DC-8-63F N441J presumably making its final flight here two weeks earlier, after storage at Lima. Others included a couple of nice B727's, with N697CA still in full Champion Air colours (who stopped flying almost three years ago) and also engineless, N994AJ of Amerijet, which although fitted with winglets, was WFU recently. Of the resident propliners, it was good to catch one active, with TMF C-117D N587MB caught taxying in, before departing again later. Then, after a chat with 'Mr Propliner' Carlos Gomez, owner of Florida Air Transport etc, he kindly gave me freedom of his ramp, with almost all his aircraft present. Still on with classics, Jetstar Aviation Services still have three of the ultimate classic biz-jet here. After a knock on their door, i was kindly given access to the two in their hangar, with N777AY 'Dezer One' and N375MD 'Dezer Three' being opened, to also photograph the insides. Fantastic, even with the spooky lifesize female doll in there! Unfortunately, days are numbered for these, with their other aircraft, N275MD already parked outside after being retired. Finally, of the other very nice biz here, one surprise was rarely photographed CL604 N606JL, which was caught departing. Fitted with a large radar unit under the forward fuselage, as well as several extra antennas, it is registered to a 'discreet' company in Jacksonville. Possibly based at Green Cove Springs (not far South of Jacksonville, where it has been noted flying from), it could be assumed its surveillance role in Florida could be to do with an anti-trafficking mission?
Onto Fort Lauderdale Executive, this place always has plenty of tasty biz present, including classic Sabreliners at the Jet Harbor facility. Active today were Sabre 60 N44DD flying, and Sabre 65 YV-415T doing engine runs. Also present was the sweet Argentinian Lear 60, among a handfull of South Americans. Another nice visit here, as i then headed off for the long haul straight up to Titusville, around 180 miles to the North. Passing many places of interest, these would be done on the way back South, after tomorrows big event...
DAY 3 THURSDAY 24TH FEBRUARY
With thankfully still no news of any delays to the launch, it was an early start today, heading off to a meeting point at a large Kmart carpark in Titusville. Here, people were gathering, after booking with Gator Tours for the VIP Space Shuttle launch tour, with coaches then taking those who had managed to get one of the $120 tickets, across the Indian River along the NASA Causeway to the Kennedy Space Center visitor complex. With a late afternoon launch, this was only the first part of todays tour, with several hours to be spent here, before heading out to our viewing area for the launch. As well as the full size Shuttle replica 'Explorer', there is also NASA T-38N N969NA mounted on display here.
With the launch time gradually getting closer, we then re-boarded our coaches for the drive to our viewing area. Heading past the viewing area at the visitor complex, where already hundreds of people were awaiting the spectacle, we were going a further five miles along NASA Parkway East, to around half way across the Banana River. Here, the causeway is the closest point that the public are permitted for launches at Kennedy, with Launch Pad 39A around 7 miles to the North. Also from this position, another launch pad, United Launch Alliance SLC-37B, was a lot closer, being part of the Cape Canaveral Air Force Station. Visible inside was a Delta IV rocket (Medium+ 4.2 configuration), which was being readied for launch on 11th March, on mission NROL-27 with a classified spy satellite for the US NRO. During the several hours waiting here, i had chose my spot and set up my gear, using a 100-400mm lens with a 1.4x extender (giving 560mm of reach) mounted on a monopod. A set up only ever used for this occasion, a couple of NASA aircraft airborne then came close enough to be photographed, with T-38N N908NA checking the weather conditions, followed by UH-1H N419NA with callsign 'Safety 2'. Then the time had come... for STS-133...
STS (Space Transportation System)-133 was NASA's 133rd Shuttle mission, as well as being ISS assembly flight ULF5. It was also Discovery's 39th and final mission, after 27 years of service, having flown more than any other spacecraft. Commander Steve Lindsey led the crew of six, which didn't include the unfortunate Tim Kopra, who was replaced after being injured in a bicycle accident, breaking his hip one month before launch. Pushed back from the original launch date in September, to October, then November, before todays attempt, the 14 day mission was to carry the ELC4 platform (support for external payloads on the ISS), as well as the Leonardo PMM (storage unit) back to the ISS, where it would now remain as a permanent attachment. Inside Leonardo, the payload also included the first humanoid robot in space, Robonaut2.
Now, with the scene set for the planned launch at 16:50:24, the large crowd was stunned by the news at 1627, that it was a 'no go'... the Range Safety Officers computer console had crashed! Responsible for safe launches into orbit down range of KSC, the RSO is part of the USAF 45th Space Wing, with the 45thOG located at Cape Canaveral responsible for the Eastern Range which extends East from KSC out over the Atlantic. Without this safety cover, which includes the authority to destruct the Shuttle, in the case of a major malfunction etc, there would be no launch. Now, with the launch window closing at 1653, if the RSO computer problem was not fixed in time, that would be it for the day. As the launch procedure continued and the problem was being urgently looked at, the countdown was then held at T-5 minutes. However, with the launch window only able to be extended for +3 minutes, and the whole crowd collectively holding its breath... with just 2 seconds to go, the problem was resolved and the clock re-started just in time for Discovery to launch... Incredible...
The mix of emotions at that moment can't be described, with the sight of the sparks to light the engines changing the mood of the crowd in that split second, from almost heartbreak to absolute elation. The cheers and screams, with some tears to be seen, were the backdrop to the amazing sight, as Discovery appeared out of the large exhaust plume of white cloud, turning it orange, as it powered its way into the blue Florida sky. Just then, the immense sound hit, reaching our position 7 miles away, all the while as i was trying to keep steady and photograph the moment. In the end, launch time was 16:53:24, with the Shuttle rotating anti-clockwise and arching to the East, heading down range and into orbit, with the two SRB's (Solid Rocket Boosters) that are used for the first two minutes of flight, seen detaching and falling away, as Discovery disappeared out of sight. And that was that. What an experience... "U-S-A, U-S-A"... hell yeah!
DAY 4 FRIDAY 25TH FEBRUARY
After the momentus day yesterday, todays plan was for a quick look at Titusville, just opposite KSC, before heading South via stops at Melbourne, Vero Beach and St Lucie, to end up at West Palm Beach, around 135 miles down the coast. First though, i wasn't quite done with NASA yet, and made a quick stop at the Astronaut Hall of Fame museum, right next to the Indian River off the NASA Causeway. Outside is another full size replica Shuttle, named 'Inspiration'. From here, Titusville 'Space Coast Regional' is just a mile away, where a nice surprise was waiting, with Zero-G B727-200(WL) N794AJ 'G-Force One' parked up. This very smart classic is operated by Amerijet, and had arrived from Las Vegas yesterday, no doubt coinciding with the Shuttle launch, with a 'weightlessness' flight planned for tomorrow at Cape Canaveral. One of four main locations for operations, the others being Vegas, Fort Lauderdale and San Jose, a 'weightless flight experience' can be booked for around $5K.
Around 30 miles South is Melbourne, where two more classics were present, with awesome all black Sabre 65 N355CD just about to depart. As well as this nice surprise, the well known resident classic here is the Northrop Grumman operated E-8C 90-0175/JS, named 'Eye In The Sky'. The J-Stars test-bed, which started life with Qantas as VH-EAA, and was last operated by Southern Air Transport as N526SJ until 1990, is now re-engined with JT-8D's. 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 hangar, though with the doors wide open, a half decent shot was possible. Obviously receiving some quite major maintenance at the moment, the tail fin was removed, along with some engine cowlings. If only to catch it flying!
Next stop, around 35 miles further South, was Vero Beach. Quite good for biz-jet movements, with a very nice garden viewing area overlooking the low fence onto the main ramp at the rear of the nice little terminal, those present included CL604 C-GZPX and Flight Options Legacy with temporary reg N913LX. On to St Lucie, otherwise known as Fort Pierce, just 12 miles down the road, this is another good airport for some old classics. Here, Missionary Flights International, a church-based company headed by President Dick Snook (a Vietnam veteran on EC-47's), 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. Looking to replace their older piston DC-3's with turbo Daks, photographed today were piston DC-3's N300MF and N400MF, along with turbo DC-3-65TP N200MF, which was having some major work done after cracks were found in an engine mount (with the right wing about to be re-fitted). As well as the MFI Daks, a few other propliner types present, were rare Riley Turbo Skyliner (Heron conversion) N416SB, still with Norstar titles (though of course a non-flyer), bare metal Beech G18S N6B, and the last Albatross built, HU-16A N42MY, which is parked up for sale (in great looking condition). Also, of the few nice biz-jets present, as well as the Canadian Hawker 850XP, a few vintage Gulfstreams included hush-kit fitted Gulf 3 N58AJ, 1976-built Gulf 2SP N951RK, and although still current on the register, 1975-built Gulf 2SP N117JJ, which certainly appears to be retired (with several major parts missing).
From here, it was on to the final stop of the day, with West Palm Beach (PBIA) around 60 miles further South. A very busy airport for executive aircraft movements, the extensive Southside FBO ramps here always have a lot to be seen, though aircraft photographers hanging around are certainly not that welcome. As usual though, with a bit of discretion and haste, some shots are still possible. Highlights today were Peter Nygards 'Super 727' VP-BPZ, in its very 'loud' colour scheme. Unfortunately it was parked very difficult for a shot today, although i have shot it before, at Toronto (when it was in a more 'modest' scheme). Another Canadian based aircraft, that was on for a shot though, was old Gulf 3 C-GBBB of Chartright Air. Also, still present here is classic Jetstar 731 N770JR, once owned by Howard Hughes, which has been retired for a while and is is for sale. Finally, also here at PBIA is 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. This ramp also seems to attract visiting military aircraft, with a couple of US Navy Seahawks present today. SH-60B's 162124/NW-605 with a large 'HSL-60 Jaguars' badge, and 162340/HP-451 of HSL-44 'Swamp Foxes' in high-viz markings, were a nice bonus to finish off the day.
DAY 5 SATURDAY 26TH FEBRUARY
The next couple of days were then to be spent in the Fort Lauderdale area, starting with a visit to Pompano Beach today, just to the NE of Fort Lauderdale Exec. A quick look here provided a couple of older things of interest, including nice Grumman Mallard N98BS named 'Ti-Loup du Lac'. Registered to LAC Management, it has a VIP interior, and according to the guy with the aircraft, it spends time in Florida over the Winter, away from its main New Jersey base. Also, a couple of Seventies-built biz-jets present, were early production Falcon 50 N550CL, and Falcon 10 N220PA which has some familar history.
A second visit to Fort Lauderdale Exec (FXE) followed, with another good look around this fantastic airfield for biz-jets. Highlights included plenty of South Americans, with Venezuelan Beechjet YV2452 parked outside the paintshop, Lear 36A PT-ACC (impounded?), Falcon 10 YV2474, Cessna 551SP YV1776, ex Caribair Saab 340A HI866 with titles and logos removed (after being repossessed last year), early production Brasilia freighter N210AS in Transcarga Venezuela colours (NTU?), and resident Aztec Airways Beech 18's N737SW and N9690R. A few of the parked/stored classics were also photographed this time, including Jetstar II N311RS (ex A6-CPC) parked for sale in good condition. Looking PWFU though were 1967-built Commodore Jet N814T, and the 7th Jetstream 31 built, N607BA (the former very familiar G-OBEA). Also, a great look around the Jet Harbor hangar and ramp, thanks to the friendly guys there, provided more classics, at this Sabreliner specialists. Present were Sabre 65's N65AK, N74VC and N901CD, along with 1972-built Sabre 40 YV416T. Then, on a ramp close by, another was Sabre 60 N71CC, which was later involved in an emergency here six weeks later. After departing for West Palm Beach on 9th April, the landing gear would not extend, so after holding over the Everglades, returned here and made a successful gear-up landing, with only minor damage caused.
From here, it was on to Fort Lauderdale (FLL), to spend the rest of the day at this busy airport. Photography here is very good, at the official viewing area, ideally over the fence using steps, with the main taxyway very close by. Highlights, on this very hot day, included Bahamasair B737-200 C6-BFM, CanJet B737-800 C-GDGQ, Sunwing B737-800 C-GRKB (on lease still with the Travel Service logo on the front end), 1970-built Gulf 2 N27SL, Gulf 200 N282CM operated for Hyundai, Aires Colombia B737-700 HK-4675 (ex Easyjet G-EZJT), JetBlue 'BlackBerry Yahoo' logojet A320 N651JB, Air Jamaica A320 6Y-JAI and Learjet 35A XA-WIN. Then photographed parked up, were Cessna 560XLS XA-VGR, nice Falcon 50 N896DA of tire manufacturer Titan International, with a Goodyear Farm tires logo (bought by Titan), and Comlux Global Express HB-JGH (delivered new three weeks earlier). Back at the viewing area, more highlights included all grey Legacy N924AK (previously N18BM of infamous fraudster Bernie Madoff), Caribbean Airlines B737-800 9Y-BGI, and Southwest 'SeaWorld Shamu' logojet B737-700 N715SW. Finally, a few shots along the Northern perimeter included US Army UC-35A 96-0107 from Willow Grove NAS, all white Saab 340A N158SD (WFU), and old Beech H18S N4296E of Alligator Air Transport... this is Florida after all!
DAY 6 SUNDAY 27TH FEBRUARY
The second day in Fort Lauderdale, was to be spent at the two main airports, with most of the day at FLL, before the last couple of hours back at FXE. Shots at FLL first thing in the morning are better from the top of the multi-storey car park, just above Terminal 2, which is quite a well known photospot. This is good for rotation shots off runway 9L, or if landing the other way, for touchdown shots on 27R. Unfortunately, after about an hour here, an airport cop insisted that i stop, saying that i could only take photographs from the official viewing area at the other end. One of those situations where it seems there is no point arguing about it, i did say that i was surprised, as its such a well known spot, that it must have been tollerated previously? No big deal, as i had already taken quite a few shots from this different angle, and the sun gets around quite quickly, so that the official viewing area was now better for shots anyway.
Driving around there, a few stops were made, with highlight on the Northern ramps being Capital Cargo B727-200F N898AA. Then, asking at Air Sunshine, i finally managed to get out onto their ramp to photograph the rare classics parked here. After trying over several visits previously, with only a half decent shot through the fence, this was great, knowing that these may well be up for the chop soon! Parked here, along with a couple of WFU Air Sunshine Saab 340's and a Cessna 402, are four ex Airborne Express YS-11's, all of which were WFU here over ten years ago, and have been up for sale since. Rumours of some or all of them being made airworthy again have so far come to nothing, although of the four (N912AX, N914AX, N915AX and N922AX), N922AX seems to have had some work done on it recently, with bare metal areas in the paintwork (as well as the lower half of the engine nacelles and undercarriage doors) having primer applied. Infact, reports suggest that this aircraft was indeed being run up six weeks earlier, so maybe there is hope for at least one?
Back at the official viewing area then, highlights photographed included CanJet B737-800 F-GZHB (Winter lease from Transavia France), Avanti N178SL, CL605 PP-SCB, CL605 C-GHMW, Hawker 900XP C-GVMP, Sunwing B737-800 C-FLSW, Southwest 'Nevada One' logojet B737-700 N727SW, Global Express N305CC of Carnival Cruise Lines, Aires Colombia B737-700 HK-4635, CanJet B737-800 OO-JBG (Winter lease from Tui), Flight Options Legacy with temporary reg N910LX, and Air Sunshine Saab 340A N744BA departing, among the hoardes of more regular stuff.
Then, heading back to FXE for the last couple of hours, another good drive around the place found some more nice biz, including Premier PR-RSN, Beechjet HK-4446-G, and more vintage-biz with Lear 25B N778GM, Lear 25D N800RF, Gulf 3 N212BA (ex Saudi AF HZ-108), HS125-700A N411PA (ex HB-VLH), and hush-kitted Gulf 3 N550PP in Porto World (hotel group) colours with large titles. This has familar history, being ex G-BSAN of Shell and G-GIII of Aravco etc. Also, present on the Aero Toy Store ramp was nice B737-200 N787WH (which is for sale), while a couple of Jetstream 41's present were N307UE and N679AS (both VIP conversions in similar colours). Of the old derelict airframes here, also photographed was very rare Arava N302CL. Still in the colours of former Argentinian operator CATA, it was imported to the States to be used for skydiving, but certification problems meant it would never happen. Then, heading down to the purpose built viewing deck here to finish the day off, this is good for landing shots onto runway 08, with departing traffic a bit further away. A few arrivals included vintage 1971-built HS125-400A N805WD inbound from Marsh Harbour, Bahamas, while departing was 1977-built HS125-700A N819WG (previously HZ-MMM and LX-MJM). Finally, on the opposite side of the runway from here, is another storage ramp, which is very difficult to get any nearer to photograph. Those present included a couple more Sabreliners, with Sabre 65 N65BT and rare Sabre 80A YV338T. Very nice.
DAY 7 MONDAY 28TH FEBRUARY
After the final night in Fort Lauderdale, todays plan was back to the Miami area, for the final four days of the trip, with quick stops at FXE, FLL, North Perry and Opa Locka, before on to MIA. First then, another quick look around FXE, which never seems to stop 'giving'! Guatemalan Lear 31A TG-SHV was now present outside, good for a shot, while Saab 340A N325SV of Bimini Island Air had also appeared. An unidentified shot was a Falcon 10 (100?) with a Colombian flag on the fin, parked nose-on, while old 1968-built Merlin IIB N96RL was a nice catch. A few more of the old airframes parked around the place were also photographed, with 1976-built Learjet 25D N188CA thought to be WFU, Falcon 10 N110J previously of RES-Q-Jets Air Ambulance, sealed up with engines removed, 'Zan Air' Cessna 404 5H-ZAR also engineless (officially registered as N835RC), and tatty Cessna R172 TG-WAF among the good selection this morning.
On to FLL, with a quick look along the Northern perimeter and other ramps. A few nice shots included Cessna 560 C-GWWU, Learjet 60 LV-BTA, Gulfstream International Beech 1900D N82539 (the first in the new colour scheme, looking good), unusual surprise Dornier Seastar D-ISEA, and classic Capital Cargo B727-200F N898AA again. Then on to North Perry, another 'Seven Two' is present here, which i wanted good shots of, and after asking, was granted access to. The Broward County Community College was donated B727-100F N150FE 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 here for the Aviation Institute and painted into their colour scheme, now looking very nice, fully complete. Nothing else here really apart from tin, although there is a TBM dealer, with TBM-850 N226RA on for a shot outside.
A quick look around Opa Locka followed, with a few nice biz-jets present getting bagged. These included very nice 1976-built HS125-F600A XB-RYP, BAe125-1000A HB-VOQ, and two very nice Yanks, with Legacy N678RC and Falcon 900B N111. Also present was Jetstar Aviation Services 'new' Gulf 4 N823GA, although seeing this now probably does mean the end for their three classic Jetstars here. And so on to MIA, heading straight to the runway 09R photospot for a few hours. Among the more regular stuff, was Tampa Cargo B767-200SF N767QT, Surinam Airways B737-300 PZ-TCO, Cayman Airways B737-300 VP-CKY, classic MTA Cargo DC-10-30F PP-MTP departing (the former BCal G-NIUK), Skylease Cargo MD-11F N952AR, LAN Cargo B777-200F N772LA, Martinair Cargo MD-11F PH-MCS, all white Sky King B737-400 N870AG (originally BMA's G-OBMG), and classic Amerijet B727-200F(WL) N495AJ. A couple of shots along the Northern perimeter ramps then included Xtra Airways B737-400 N42XA and 'foreign' biz, Skyservice CL601-3R C-GRPF, FMG Air Global Express VH-FMG (previously HB-JEN), Global Express HB-JRS, and departing CL601-3A XA-VDG. Finally, with Opa Locka being close enough, just seven miles up the road, another quick visit for the last hour, provided nice sunlight on recent arrival, B727-200F N741DH. Retired by DHL/Astar at Kingman in 2009, it must have been painted all white recently, now looking very fresh, so maybe still has some life left in it yet? Also photographed was another 727, PP-SPC in SP Cargo colours. This was registered last October, being ex Amerijet N909PG, but the deal fell through. Then, as well as more modern Black & Decker Gulf 550 N323BD, other classics included rare old Gulf 2TT N985BB, which is for sale here.
DAY 8 TUESDAY 1ST MARCH
A full day in the Miami area, with further time spent at MIA and Opa Locka, along with a visit to Tamiami. First, another quick look along the Northern perimeter at MIA, provided the very nice personal ride of Roustam Tariko of Russian Standard Bank, BBJ1 VR-BRT in its sweet colour scheme. Heading off to Kendall-Tamiami, this place is less than 15 miles to the SW, and usualy has plenty of stuff of interest. A good haul of vintage, Seventies-built biz-Jets included Cessna 501 N800BF with 'Expiremental' titles, Cessna 500 YV317T, Westwind 1124 N290CP, HS125-600A N957MB, HS125-400A N4WC, and even older, 1969-built HS125-400A YV1687, 1966-built HS125-1A N402AC, and ancient 1965-built HS125-1A N806CB. Possibly the oldest airworthy HS125 in the world, it was either receiving maintenance or being stripped for parts? Also, one other was old Gulf 2B N222NP, which has been parked here for a while with no registration painted on, reportedly after a sale to Venezuela fell through.
The big Venezuelan connection continues here with quite a few other aircraft present, including An-26T YV1275. Previously operated by Solar Cargo, it has also been here a while after being impounded. Similarly, An-28 YV403T has also been parked long-term, and is ex Aeronautica. Others then photograhed were Cessna 208B YV336T, Beech C90-1 YV377T, Cessna 340A YV2293, Beech 58 YV1209 (with winglets fitted), and Cessna U206G YV1729 (the one time G-PEDG). Jetstream 41's present were YV270T & YV293T both all white, ex Venezolana, and YV280T still in full Venezolana colours, also after return from lease. A couple of Jetstream 31's were YV314T ex SASCA and YV1878 ex TAAN. Both WFU with engines removed, the latter is a bit special, being an original Jetstream 1, the 34th built in 1969 as G-AXRE. Later converted into a 'Century III' with Garrett TPE331 turboprop engines in 1975, it pre-dated the production Jetstream 31 by five years. Other Jetstreams present were 31/32's 9Y-BKO of Briko Air, which is parked engineless after the lease fell through (previously stored at DeLand), N609BA (ex G-CBEA), and ex Trans States (US Air feeder) N972JX, both also WFU. Finally, a couple of other Jetstream 41's present, were N317UE and N321UE, both ex United Express/Atlantic Coast, with the latter having 'Experimental' titles, while one more exotic reg was Pa-31-325 HI-683 (which is for sale). Certainly a well worth visit here, with great access. Almost a 'little Caracas'!
Back to MIA, they were now landing 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. A couple of hours here included highlights IBC Saab 340F N631BC, and USAF Special Ops U-28B (PC-12) N72DZ from Hurlburt Field in Florida, before a quick look at the school aircraft. Gone are the days of the classic Boeing 720 and Martin 404 here, although there are a couple of old Beech UC-45J's now, along with a nice vintage 1955-built Aztec. Dominating the place though, is donated American Airlines MD-82 N234AA, which arrived in May last year (by crane across LeJeune Road from MIA).
Another drive up the road to Opa Locka then provided a few more shots of parked airliners, with ex GOL B737-300 PR-GLQ (which arrived last August), and ex Northwest DC-9-32 N927RC (previously stored at Mojave), while biz-Jets present included CL604 C-GKTO. Also, the first sign of President Obama's visit to Miami on the 4th, were some support aircraft here, including C-17A 04-4136 from McGuire, which had brought in USMC VH-60N 163266 of HXM-1 (that was caught returning from a check flight).
DAY 9 WEDNESDAY 2ND MARCH
The look along the Northern perimeter at MIA first thing this morning, provided a couple of nice shots of Learjets, with Lear 25D XA-TYW and USAF AMC C-21A 84-0140 from Scott AFB (named 'Spirit of St Louis III'), which appeared to be receiving some 'running repairs' after arrival. Also present, and possibly connected with Obama's impending visit, was USAF C-37A 01-0028 from MacDill AFB in Florida. Nipping up to Opa Locka for a quick look, then provided a few nice biz, including Farnborough-based A319CJ G-NOAH and sweet Cessna 750 N760BP, before back to MIA, to spend most of the day at the runway 09 photospot.
Highlights here included Korean Air Cargo B747-400F HL7439, LAN Colombia Cargo B767-300SF(WL) N312LA, Euro Atlantic Cargo B767-300ERF CS-TLZ (operating for LAN Cargo), ABSA Cargo B767-300F(WL) PR-ABD, Cielos del Peru Cargo DC-10-30F N305FE departing, Capital Cargo B757-200PCF N620DL, Florida West 'silver bullet' B767-300ERF N422LA, Sky Lease Cargo MD-11F N952AR, classic Sky King B737-200 N249TR (still in basic Patriot Airlines colours, previously Spantax EC-DUB), Estafeta Cargo B737-300F XA-ECA (previously Easyjet G-OGVA), ATI B767-200F N763CX, LAN Colombia Cargo B767-300F(WL) N418LA, Insel Air MD-82 PJ-MDC, BA 'One World' B747-400 G-CIVP, AeroMexico B737-700 XA-GMV, three months old Copa Airlines B737-800 HP-1713CMP, Lufthansa A340-300X D-AIGV and B747-400 D-ABVM, Avianca B767-300ER N984AN, ABX B767-200F N750AX, Transaero B777-200ER EI-UNX, and Cielos del Peru Cargo DC-10-30F N614GC (previously Laker Airways N832LA). Finally, another quick look at Opa Locka didn't produce that much more this time, with ex Northwest DC-9-31 N919RW being photographed. 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.
DAY 10 THURSDAY 3RD MARCH
The final day of the trip, and the usual look along the Northern perimeter at MIA first thing. Photographed at the Landmark FBO, was BAe125-800A C-GTAU, before heading back to the runway 09 photospot for the rest of the day there. Highlights among the early cargo arrivals, were DHL B767-200PC N773AX and B757-200PCF HP-1910DAE, Cielos del Peru Cargo DC-10-30F N612GC (previously BA G-BHDJ), Amerijet B727-200F(WL) N598AJ, and Centurion Cargo MD-11F N984AR. Others then included SBA B757-200 YV304T, Sky King B737-400 N916SK, Atlas Air B747-400BCF N429MC departing, American Airlines 'Pink Ribbon' B757-200(WL) N664AA, ABX Air B767-200SF N747AX (with additional JAL logo), Estafeta Cargo B737-300F XA-ECA, Korean Air Cargo B747-400F HL7400, LAN Cargo B767-300ERF(WL) CC-CZZ, and Sun Country B737-700 N711SY. Before leaving, classic Cielos del Peru Cargo DC-10-30F N612GC was on the move again, so decided to head down to the 94th Restaurant for rotation shots.
From here it was back to the hotel to check out. Staying at the Comfort Inn, this place is OK for a few shots from high floor rooms facing the airport. Not the best though, being South facing through dirty double glass, some shots are still possible, including of the ramp below. Parked here was executive MD-87 P4-AIR, and a couple of Delta MD-90-30's waiting to enter service, including N921DN. And so, returning the rental, it was on to check-in for AA182 to Heathrow. Operated by B767-300ER N359AA, departure was at 1830, arriving 8.30 hours later at 0800L on the 4th. Connection was onto BA125 to Bahrain, operated by B747-400 G-BYGA, off at 1055 and arriving 7 hours later at 1955L. Mission complete!