USA September 2012 ‘The Big Endeavour’ Tour Part I
The trilogy began with the final launch of Space Shuttle Discovery, on mission STS-133 in Feb 2011. Fourteen months later, the same Shuttle was caught on delivery to the Smithsonian museum in Washington DC. Now, five months later on, witness the historic, last ‘chance in a lifetime’ event of a Space Shuttle being carried on a B747SCA, with the delivery of Endeavour to Los Angeles. The cross-country journey, known as Mission 26 (following Endeavour’s 25 launches) was also dubbed ‘The Big Endeavour’, and with the full schedule finally being released by NASA, the final plans and bookings could be made to witness the event. For those that have attempted to catch a Space Shuttle in flight, will know of the potential pitfalls and dissapointment, even for the delivery flights. It took me three attempts to see a launch, and at the very end of an amazing Shuttle program, Endeavour was to provide a final twist… but only a little one!
The original plan was to spend ten days in California, for the Shuttle arrival at LAX, aswell as having a good tour around SoCal, where I hadn’t been for eight years. With the confirmation of an en route stop in Houston by Endeavour, the plan was changed to include this aswell, after seeing convienient flights down there. Infact, if it was also known about the ‘airside’ tours NASA were then offering the public to see the mating process of the Shuttle with the B747SCA at KSC, a flight to Miami could have started the trip, followed by a flight to Houston and LA, following (or staying one step ahead of) Endeavour’s route. At that point it was too late to change all the bookings, so it was ‘only’ going to be a Texas and West Coast affair…
DAY 1 FRIDAY 14TH SEPTEMBER
Starting at Bahrain, first flight was BA124 to Heathrow, operated by B777-200 G-VIIK, off at 0140L and landing 6.40 hours later at 0620L. Unfortunately the first connection was fully booked, which meant a six hour layover before onto BA283 to Los Angeles, operated by B747-400 G-BNLL, off at 1220L and landing 11.40 hours later at 1500L. Numb! At least the time at Heathrow meant a few shots from T5, including finally catching the BA Olympic ‘Firefly’ A319 G-EUPC.
After arrival at LAX and collecting the Ford Escape hire car, it was straight off, in the great afternoon sunlight, to the future home of Endeavour, the California Science Center, located not far to the NW of LAX. On display outside here are two real classic’s, with United Airlines DC-8-52 N8066U being present since 1984 and repainted back into vintage colours (after being WFU in 1980 and stored at Las Vegas) and rare, unique two-seat USAF TA-12 Blackbird 60-6927. This flew from Groom Lake between 1964-1968, followed by storage at Palmdale for 37 years, before the public finally got to see it here! Both are mounted on poles and are a bit tricky to photograph, especially the DC-8, surrounded by trees etc and needing some w-i-d-e angle, but it can be done. This late afternoon shoot was to be followed later by another, early morning visit, to get nice shots of both sides of the aircraft, with morning shots the better.
From here, with daylight running out, it was straight off to the hotel at Victorville, almost a hundred miles to the NE. A quick stop was made at Ontario airport when passing, but the sun was already down, so no shots were taken. However I was to return here on Sunday, and take the flight down to Houston.
DAY 2 SATURDAY 15TH SEPTEMBER
The plan today was for a first for me… an aerial photo shoot over the two big boneyards in California. Prior arrangement had been made with the Apple Valley Flight Center, with the charter being pushed back an hour to 0900, meaning I had plenty of time for a look around on the ground at Victorville first. Otherwise known as Southern California Logistics Airport, it is the former George AFB (until 1992) and has grown into a major storage, scrapping and MRO facility, mostly for retired airliners. With its huge runway, being one of the longest in the States at over 15,000ft, it also attracts operators such as Omega Air with their B707’s and DC-10’s, being quite frequent visitors flying under contract to the US Navy, and is one of the bases for the 10 Tanker Air Carrier DC-10’s when dealing with wildfires in the region etc. Unfortunately, none of these were present today, with DC-10 N450AX (Tanker 910) returning from McClellan four days later, followed later by N17085 (Tanker 911), while the friendly guys in the Million Air FBO (nice café) said an Omega 707 was due in a few weeks time. Today, apparently the only airliner movement was a Southwest B737 on one of the regular trooping flights here. These use the airport for grunts en route to the Army’s National Training Center at Fort Irwin.
Shots of aircraft in the boneyard areas here are not so easy, being mostly distant from the perimeter fence, with heat haze of course affecting things for most of the day, being out in the desert. Some success can be had in the couple of hours after dawn and before dusk, with the operational ramp area around the hangars on the East side being the best, with aircraft closer. However, photography here is not encouraged, with an occasional security patrol, though with the usual discretion and haste, shots are still quite easy through or over the fence (with steps or stood on the hire car!). Aircraft parked in this area include the more recent arrivals for processing, and included quite a few Mexicana Click B717’s, who ceased operations in August 2010. Photographed were N920ME & N921ME, along with two ex Jade Cargo B747-400ERF’s with reg’s painted over, after ceasing operations in December 2011. Also good for shots were FedEx MD-10 N68059 & MD-11F N579FE, World MD-11 N269WA, ex Omni Air DC-10-30 N810AX, ANA B767-300 JA8257 and United B737-300 N375UA. Also, two B757’s awaiting cargo conversion for a new life with FedEx, were ex Primaris Airlines B757-200 N741PA (to be N985FD) and ex Astraeus B757-200 N938FD, now painted all white after previously having the Iron Maiden 2007-2008 world tour scheme, when G-OJIB. Not many real old classics out on the sand these days, with only two DC-8’s, both ex CF Airfreight, with -63F N797AL in basic colours and -62F N995CF all white, and the one B707, with ex South African AF B707-328C N707SE still sealed up with one engine missing after arriving in May 2011. Finally, visiting on the Million Air ramp was Challenger 300 N508SN, while photographed in a compound just outside the airfield was the nose section of ex Air India A310-300 VT-EVU. This was last registered to FedEx as N68097 prior to being scrapped.
Apple Valley Airport is only 12 miles East of Victorville, so was reached after a quick drive. Infact, there was time for breakfast in the nice café there before the charter. Almost a last minute snag though was my pilot calling in sick (a victim of happy hour from the night before more like!), which meant owner & manager Lois unexpectedly taking the flight on. Not a problem for the very experienced instructor, who was great during the next 3-4 hours, with the company having carried out many such flights for aircraft photographers. The ‘ride’ for the charter was 1963-vintage Cessna 172E N3803S, and we were soon off into the clear blue sky. Direct to Victorville first to join the circuit, with two low orbits around the boneyard to get the first air-ground shots. At this point, I realised it was certainly better to try and keep the lens inside the aircraft, as although the open window was ideal for clear shots, the buffeting from the airflow outside was certainly not ideal, with the image stabiliser not able to cope! Not a problem, as although not much space inside, with my seat pushed right back (and being a lady driver, Lois seat being forward!), there was room to keep the whole camera inside. Other highlights photographed then, were are nice line-up of aircraft including ex Corsair B747-400 N135KB, previously F-HSEX with titles and logos painted over, Deta Air DC-10-40F UP-DC102, L1011-500 HZ-AB1 of Al Anwa Aviation (operated for Prince Abdul Aziz Al Ibrahim), which many should remember from when captained by the great King Hussain of Jordan as JY-HKJ, and ex Deccan 360 A310-300F M-YRGT (ex VT-AIP), alongside ex Qantas B737-400 VH-TJF, both of which are quite recent arrivals.
From Victorville, it was the short distance East to El Mirage, where the Aviation Warehouse have a large compound containing many fuselage sections, with a lot of interesting old airframes present. During prior contact with them, they were asking ridiculous ‘commercial’ rates to go inside for photography, so the couple of low orbits over the top was certainly a lot cheaper! It would certainly be interesting to ‘climb’ around the amazing amount of stuff in there, though photography could be quite difficult, with a lot of the airframes crammed together. Just to the North of the compound is El Mirage airfield, which is owned by General Atomics, and along with Gray Butte to the South, is used as a test facility for their UAV’s (including the Predator).
From here, Lois suggested a direct track to the other major airport as part of the schedule… Mojave. Our route North was taking us pretty much over Edwards AFB, so the request was made to overfly. Although in restricted airspace, the request was granted, but at a minimum of 7,000ft. I was still more than happy with this unexpected bonus, which was only possible as it was the weekend (and anything ‘sensitive’ would be shut away anyway). As Lois cranked the old Cessna up, we just made 7 Thousand as we reached the Edwards overhead, flying over this famous facilty… the site of the first Space Shuttle landings among many notable’s. Aswell as the main airfield, the adjoining Rogers Dry Lake has many other runways marked out (as well as other strange markings), with the longest being almost 40,000ft! First aircraft seen, on the Southerly ramps, was the very nice collection of the AFFTC Museum, with resident test B-52H 60-0036 of the 419FLTS close by. Then, on the ramps North of the runway, highlight were three USAF Global Hawks (one with a white ‘canopy’), parked next to NASA Gulf 2STA N944NA.
Nine miles to the NW of Mojave is California City, a small non-ATC airfield, that i at least wanted to fly over as there are a few interesting aircraft present. Heading there first, and after a low orbit, i asked about ‘popping in’ for half an hour… no problem, with a tight left hand final to land. If your not familiar with this place, it suprisingly has quite a few old classics, with a couple of propliners and quite a few old biz-jets present. As Lois grabbed a coffee, i freely walked around photographing the residents… DC-3C (or R4D-1 Skytrain, being originally US Navy) N193DP has been parked here for several years now, with part or all of the right engine missing. It is registered to VIP Jet Transportation Inc, after previously being operated by the Santa Monica Museum of Flying, when it spent time at Mojave, and going back even further was once fitted with a MAD boom when operated in Canada. Also, on ‘display’ outside the main airport building is Convair 240 (HC-131A) N54215, registered to the California Museum of Air & Space here. Still in ex USCG colours, it was modified on the rear left side with a circular door to test Space Shuttle emergency egress.
The reason for most of the vintage biz-jets being present here, is Norm Hill Aviation, who specialize in parts supply for older Gulfstream models. Six aircraft aquired for dismantling are parked outside, with Gulf 3 C-GBBB (ex Chartright Air), Gulf 3 N555XS, and 1969 built Gulf 2SP N800RT (c/n 047) which was de-registered three days later, crammed outside their hangar on a small ramp. While, parked together on the main airport ramp were three Gulf 2SP’s, with N17KJ de-registered in June (previously owned by Not Yours LLC!), VP-BFF which has an interesting history, and XA-AXP which has its engines (so registration) removed. The company also has three more Gulfstreams on its books (N105AJ, N880WE & N951XF), with some or all of these maybe inside their hangar (which was locked up)? Two more vintage biz-jets here are HS125-600A N514RD (remember G-HALK, G-PJWB or G-DMAN!) and Westwind 1124 N809JC of Premiere Home Sales Inc, while also worthy of mention are three ex French AF Fouga Magisters of Swift Air International, who offer flights, with N315MB (ex 498/315-MB) being photographed.
Certainly all worth dropping in for, as we got back in the Cessna for the remainder of the charter, starting with the short hop to Mojave. Again, a couple of low orbits around the boneyard here reminded me of just how awesome this place is. As good as Victorville is, this place is still the best for real old classics, with so many still present, including some real gems. First to be photographed were a large group of ATI DC-8’s, with latest arrival N603AL, followed by the pair of ex Northrop Grumman BAC1-11 testbeds N111JX & N161NG. This year, Southern Air were in the process of retiring all their B747-200F’s (in favour of their B747-400’s and B777F’s), with many present, including four in the latest colourscheme: N740SA, N761SA, N815SA & N820SA. Of these, N761SA had just arrived from Chicago twelve days earlier and had already lost its engines. By the end of October, the remaining five -200F’s had arrived: N704SA, N708SA, N758SA, N760SA and N765SA. Still present, are a large group of short DC-9’s of Aero Californa, with XA-SWH still in full colours. A fairly modern aircraft of legend here, is ex Air Canada B767-200 C-GAUN, the famous ‘Gimli Glider’ (if you don’t know the story… google it). Interestingly, unlike almost all the other aircraft here, it is still fully intact. Its almost as if they expect the aircraft to be sold for display/preservation one day, so don’t want to touch it. Its often mentioned that it should be on display in Canada, so who knows? Then, getting onto some real classics, two familiar B707’s also photographed… all white B707-323B N706PC of Omega Air, still fully intact with just the engines removed, and ex VIP B707-351B N707CA, similarly acquired by Omega for the engines. Finally, saving the best till last, two legends are the very rare pair of fully intact Convair jetliners, with Convair 880 N815AJ still having the faded TWA colourscheme on the left side (bare metal on the right), and Convair 990 N990AB still in the faded colours of APSA- Aerolineas Peruanas. Also, not forgetting the ex NASA Convair 990 N810NA, which was used as a Space Shuttle landing gear test aircraft, and now stands on display at the entrance road to the airport.
From Mojave, we followed the Aerospace Highway South, past the huge wind farm, to visit one more airfield on the way back to Apple Valley. Lancaster Fox Field is home to the small, but nice collection of the Milestones of Flight Museum. Highlights outside are ex RAF Argosy T2 N1430Z (ex XP447), ex Hemet Valley Flying Service C-119C N13745 (Tanker 82), and USAF California ANG KC-97G 53-0272. Also, with the USFS maintaining an airtanker base here, water bombers present during our very low flyby were Air Tractor AT-802A N8510M (Tanker 441) and BAe146-200 N471NA (Tanker 41 ‘Montana’) of Neptune Aviation, which started its contract on 1st September. This should be very familiar as G-JEAX of Flybe, which was handed back to BAe five years ago, before starting a very different life over here.
And so, taking a direct course from here to Apple Valley, this took us just North of Palmdale and South of Victorville. At this point, the small dirt strip at Adelanto was passed (five miles SW of Victorville), with a resident DC-3 being news to me! After landing, Lois kindly arranged a visit for me there and gave directions (satnav still gave up!), and with over half the day gone, this was the first of five more airfields to be taken in on this busy day. Finally getting to Adelanto, i was expected, with the friendly guys there showing me inside the Dak, and saying it was for sale, with a possible deal done. DC-3-201G N166LG is registered to Bar One Helicopter Service, and is overall bare metal with USAF star & bars and a ‘Skytrain DC3 Chattanooga Choo Choo’ nose badge. The interior is in great condition, with an immaculate cockpit and cabin, having 12 seats and nice finishing touches, including bamboo trim in the roof lining and an Eastern Air Lines plaque (it did start life with Eastern as NC33632 in 1941) on the bulkhead wall.
From Adelanto it was onto the highway, South to San Bernadino, the former Norton AFB. Closed as such in 1995, the airport now has a completed passenger terminal (though with no services yet) and is worth a visit for the large MRO facilities, with ADI and Aeropro often having interesting aircraft in for work. Highlight was B747SP N747A ‘Clipper America’ of Fry’s Electronics Inc (the old A4O-SP) looking in great condition, parked outside the large hangars, along with all white B767-200 N774WD. Retired by Qantas (ex VH-EAO) in 2004, this was reportedly being prepared at Marana for new operator Gadair European, but the deal fell through and it has been up for sale since. It did look like it was being prepared for something, so maybe a new operator will have it soon? Also present was MD-83 N789BV of Dugan Kinetics, which was used to test new ‘enviromentaly friendly’ thrust reversers, and known as an ‘EP-80’ (hmmm!), aswell as Gulfstream 3 N35GZ, which started life as USAF C-20B 86-0200 and later flew with the Chilean AF as 911.
The MRO’s here have dealt with many B727’s over the years, including one local company that purchased a load of ex AA aircraft. Several airframes remain at the airport after being retired or stored, including ex Braniff B727-227 N415BN in black Sky One colours. This has been parked now for several years, with engines removed. Three others photographed, which have needed some research to confirm their identities, were B727-227 N723AA which is overall ex AA bare metal with Sky One ‘S1’ painted number 1 & 3 engine nacelles. Both these are still registered to SBD Aircraft Services Inc, with the latter involved in a big legal case here, and is now parked away next to the perimeter, still fully intact. Similar B727-227 N869AA in basic AA colours with titles & logo’s painted over and engines removed, otherwise fully intact, is now in use as a fire service trainer, while nearby is the forward fuselage section of an unidentified B727-232 still in ex Delta colours, which sits on a trailer. Strangely, this has differently painted doors, apparently in ‘Air Force One’ colours, which may have been for film work (known to have gone on here), and is now also thought to be used by the fire service.
Finally, the USFS maintain a base here, with frequent visits by water bombers (including the DC-10’s) when tasked in the area. All was quiet today, with just the resident AC690A N8PQ which is operated by Elkhorn Aviation as the San Bernadino Air Attack ‘platform’ (co-ordinates water bombers over a wildfire), and nice S-64B Skycrane N715HT (Tanker 715) of Helicopter Transport Services, which i was able to walk out and photograph.
From here it was on to Riverside airport for a quick look, worthwhile for the resident DC-3A (C-53D) N45366 of the American Airpower Heritage Flying Museum, painted as USAAF 268830/M2-R with ‘D-Day Doll’ nose art. Also based here are ARIS Helicopters/Heli-Flite Inc, who operate two or three S-58ET’s (a Wessex to us), with one of these old workhorses thankfully out on the ramp… N1168U painted all red and looking great in the afternoon sun. The plan to visit March AFB museum this afternoon had to be put off as time had got on and it had just closed, which was a shame as on driving right past anyway, some of the aircraft looked fantastic in the great afternoon light. However, i stopped anyway for one shot, of the US Navy C-54Q 56514. More on this place later.
Not to be dissapointed though, the rest of the day was then to be spent at nearby Perris Valley airport. As one of the busiest skydiving centres in the States, the great weekend weather certainly meant this place was going non-stop, with continous take offs and landings. Skydive Perris operate the airfield and have a fleet of seven aircraft, including the only FAA certified civilian jet for skydiving… a rare pocket-rocket DC-9, who’s rear steps are used as a jump platform! Unfortunately the thing doesn’t fly that much, and didn’t today. The fleet… Skyvan’s N4NE & N101WA, DHC-6-100 N125SA, DC-9-21 N127NK (previously SAS SE-DBO), PC-6 N346F (prop removed), DHC-6-300 N708PV and DHC-6-200 N64150. Of these, all are painted in the white Skydive Perris colours, apart from Twin Otters N125SA & N708PV in ‘shark’ colours, with N101WA, N708PV & N64150 being active today. Photography here is fantastic in the afternoon, with the runway VERY close to the public fence. Now, if you could find out when that DC-9 is flying…! Also seen, quite low from here, was Omni Air B777-200ER N927AX on approach, gear down to March AFB.
With the final skydivers down at sunset, that was it for the day, and i headed straight off to the final stop at nearby Hemet-Ryan Field. Having a quick look in at the airport before heading to the nearby hotel, the guys at the USFS water bomber base were still there. A request to shoot the units four aircraft was granted, in the orange sunset sky, with CDF (California Dep of Forestry & Fire Protection) ‘Hemet-Ryan’ S-2F3AT Turbo Trackers N435DF (Tanker 72) & N437DF (Tanker 73) present, along with OV-10A Bronco N429DF (Tanker 310) which has the ‘air attack’ role, and ‘Helitack’ Bell 205 N491DF (Tanker 301). This Super Huey started life as a EH-1H ‘Quick Fix’ with the US Army and is fitted with an uprated engine and rotor from a Huey Cobra.
DAY 3 SUNDAY 16TH SEPTEMBER
The last day in California for now, began back at Hemet-Ryan Field with a return visit to photograph the CDF aircraft again, in very different light, with another glorious day of weather ahead. Aswell as their operational aircraft, there is another on display in a garden outside the fence, with S-2A(FF) Tracker ‘Tanker 70’ infact being ex Japanese Navy 4146 (ex US Navy 136745), painted as a CDF aircraft, though never operated as such or carried a US registration. Aswell as the water bombers, there are a few other aircraft of interest here, with a pair of DC-3’s resident, both overall bare metal… DC-3-313 N26MA and DC-3-201C N25648, both of Paralift Inc. These are in good airworthy condition, and as well as skydiving work in the region, have been involved in various film work, with the former used in the Bond film ‘Quantum of Solace’ and The Corrs ‘Breathless’ video, while N25648 was used in Janet Jackson’s ‘Runaway’ video, as part of a more interesting history! Infact, this has only just been re-registered as N25648 after flying as N20TW since 1988, and was previously used at Edwards AFB for AFTPS student proficiency training until at least 2005. Also present were nice Beech G18S N933GM and ex US Navy F-5E 160792, painted as VFC-13 aggressor ‘Red 02’, now part of a private collection here.
From here it was 15 miles SW to Skylark Field, another busy skydive airfield (and the oldest in the States, going back to 1959) with a few aircraft present, just being prepared for another days work. Two DHC-6-200’s present were N923MA & N926MA, along with Cessna 208 N9641F, all operated for Skydive Elsinor by Speedstar Express. One retired DC-3 remains here, with bare metal Super DC-3S (C-49F) N715F registered privately, still complete and looking in good condition. Then heading back North towards Ontario, next stop was a quick look in at Corona airport. Highlight at this ‘tin field’ was Beech D18S N80152, previously at the Vintage Flying Museum at Fort Worth, now with registration pending for ‘Applicant Mission Boston D-Day LLC’.
Close by is Chino, with their two big museums, and a few suprises. Unfortunately, the Yanks Air Museum is closed on a Sunday (great day to close!), which meant only the Planes of Fame Museum was accessed. Highlight here for me is C-47A N47TF looking great in PSA- Pacific Southwest colours, with others of interest being the nose section of Convair 440 N138CA, which was painted back into Finnair colours (was OH-LRG 1961-1980) for display, but is now in a sorry state with the nose cone missing, and An-2T NX90400 ‘Yellow 05’ which was previously on display at the Grand Canyon airport. So, aswell as missing out on the Yanks Museum, who have the EC-121 that was flown in earlier this year (and may be trying to keep airworthy), also out airside is Amerijet B727-200 N196AJ, retired here for some time following storage at Daytona Beach. Plenty of reason to try and get back one day. Driving around the perimeter, i then came across the Encore Jet Center on the South side, which provided a few vintage biz-jets. Two old Gulfstream 2’s, thought to be wfu, are N141JF of Aero Falcons LLC and N218SE of Pebble Air, who’s registration was cancelled in April. Two other classics were an unidentified Falcon 20, definitely retired, infact used for parts, with a sharks mouth crudely painted on, while parked inside was Sabreliner 65 N95TL of Critical Air Medicine Inc, looking in great condition.
After missing it yesterday, March AFB was the next stop, for their excellent museum. Now displayed inside is SR-71A 61-7975, which was fully restored after arrival in 1990. After arrival, it was discovered the left rudder was actualy once the right rudder (being interchangable) from 61-7978, the famous ‘Rapid Rabbit’ that was w/o after a crash landing at Kadena in 1972. Unfortunately, this salvaged rudder was repainted, so losing the serial and playboy bunny logo, with ’975 now having the ‘red 1’ tail logo with a white habu snake… Habu being a nickname the aircraft picked up from its time in Japan, after locals thought the aircraft resembled one of their indigenous vipers.
Of the stuff displayed outside, ‘propliners’ are the already mentioned US Navy C-54Q 56514. This was previously used as a water bomber as N67062, after conversion by Central Air Service in 1976 as ‘Tanker 148’. After retirement in 1994, it was stored at Avra Valley until 2002, when flown here and repainted back into US Navy colours. Others are USAF VC-47A 43-15579 restored into California ANG markings, USAF VC-131D 54-2808 with 125FIG ‘Florida’ logo still on the fin (after last being operated by the Florida ANG unit at Jacksonville, from 1954 until flown here for display in 1989), C-119G N8091 is painted in USAF colours, though is in fact ex Hawkins & Powers and RCAF 22122, while An-2R N22AN is painted in Soviet AF colours as ‘White 44’ and is ex CCCP-19736. Other highlights here include vintage USAF KC-135A 55-3130 ‘Fort Worth Texas’, which is the oldest surviving of the type, restored into SAC colours with ‘Ole Grandad’ nose art, USAF C-141B 65-0257 from resident unit 452AMW ‘March’ which has ‘Spirit of the Inland Empire’ nose logo, USAF B-47E 53-2275 has been nicely restored after spending twenty-odd years at the China Lake NWC, while sweet USAF Sabreliner CT-39A 62-4465 was previously used as the VIP aircraft for General Gerald O’Malley (Commander of TAC). Finally, of the many ‘whizz-booms’ here, a couple of highlights are US Navy F-14A 157990/NE-100 from the VF-1 ‘Wolfpacks’ at NAS Miramar, which was the 11th of 12 prototype/test Tomcats built, and very rare USAF YA-9A 71-1368 (02). This was Northrop’s contender for the 1966 A-X program, which was of course won by Fairchild’s A-10. Only two of these were built, with number 01 preserved at the former Castle AFB.
From here it was North again to Ontario, for the rest of the afternoon, before flying out. First off, a drive along the Southern perimeter, where a few shots are possible around the FBO’s. Good to see a few vintage biz-jets present, as always, with 1966 B727-021 N30MP of MP Aviation a great catch, along with Gulf 2B N2JR and Gulf 2SP N750RA, both of M2 Aircraft Group Inc looking wfu, with some parts missing from the former. Another, Gulf 3 N213BA has a large ‘MB’ on the fin for owner Marquez Brothers Aviation, and previously flew with the R Saudi AF as HZ-103 & HZ-109. Also parked close by were four F/A-18F’s of VFA-22 ‘Fighting Redcocks’ from NAS Lemoore, which were difficult to photograph and departed later while i was taking landing shots. Nearby at another FBO, another Gulf 3 was N388LR of R Consulting & Sales Inc (ex N797BD), with the new owners obviously being horse fans, having a nags head on the fin and winglets. Also present was Challenger 300 N985FM of Idaho Investments Inc, while Learjet 45 XA-SUK had already taxied out, so was happy to shoot it airborne on departure. Then, after shooting a couple of FedEx aircraft on their ramp, including B757-236SF N940FD (remember Air Europe G-BRJF), which was delivered in February after freighter conversion in Singapore (the 50th done), a good photospot was found off the perimeter road for landing shots. Nothing amazing over the next few hours, though reasonably busy with the usual American, Delta and US Airways short haul stuff, with Southwest being the busiest here. Shots though are very nice for aircraft on finals to 26R and 26L, with the San Gabriel Mountains as a great backdrop, with highlights being Southwest B737-700 N918WN ‘Illinois One’ logojet and CL601 N528LJ of Previti Brothers Charter Services, which sports a sweet colourscheme. Also from here, the large UPS ramp is close by, with about a dozen aircraft present, though difficult to photograph. Before calling it a day, it was another quick look around the FBO’s, with the nice Challenger photographed on the ground, aswell as Citations CJ3 N841AM & S550 N598KW, and one more classic, HS125-1A N777RN. This was the 27th built, in 1965, and now registered to Triton Ranch and Cattle Co, has been retired with a lot of parts missing. Finally, after catching FedEx DC-10-30F N319FE arriving from Memphis on FDX917, it was off to the terminal to return the rental and check in for US Airways to Houston. First flight was US645 to Phoenix, operated by A319-100 N818AW, off at 1940 and landing 50 minutes later at 2030. After a quick connection it was onto US279 to Houston IAH, operated by A320-200 N665AW, off at 2135 and landing 2.10 hours later at 0145L (2 hour time difference). After collecting the rental, another Ford Escape, i had an airport hotel booked, to catch a few hours sleep, with hopes high for a good three days in H-Town.