USA May 2013 ‘The Airshows That Never Were’ Tour Part II
DAY 10 SATURDAY 4TH MAY
Checking in for American Airlines AA2595 to Dallas DFW, we boarded CRJ-200ER N902EV of American Eagle/ExpressJet Airlines for an on-time departure at 0800. However, after trying to ‘re-set’ an engine problem, the pilot announced the aircraft was going nowhere. Luckily, there was a ‘spare’ company CRJ on the next stand, and after transferring the luggage, we boarded N901EV, eventually getting away an hour late at 0900, landing 45 minutes later. Not so bad after all, and after collecting the rental, another SUV, it was straight off. Todays plan was a big road trip around Texas to the North of Dallas, mainly to catch up with a few classic propliners, before ending up back in Dallas at Addison for tonights hotel. So, after a quick stop at a Home Depot to pick up a set of step ladders, it was on to Fort Worth Alliance airport, 22 miles to the NW of DFW, for the first of several visits here.
An excellent airport for photography, the large ramp is overlooked by a metal fence with large gaps between the railings, next to a grassed area with easy parking. Why can’t all airports be like this (not ‘run for the benefit of spotters’, but not making it difficult for them either)! Not a busy place, the airport does however receive a lot of transiting aircraft, including a surprising amount of military. Not sure why, with NAS Fort Worth just down the road, but no complaints, with great shots very easy, and no paranoid security evident. The people who work airside here are obviously used to people watching from the fence and taking pictures, with one or two families sat watching from the grass, being a weekend. Military present today was USAF C-130J-30 01-1462 of the 115AS/146AW CA ANG ‘Channel Islands’, USAF T-38C 66-4325/EN of the 469FTS/80FTW ‘Fighting Bulls’ at Sheppard AFB (further to the NW of Dallas), USAF A-10C 78-0704/MD of the 104FS/175Wg MD ANG at Baltimore Martin, and two USMC Hornets: F/A-18A+ 162409/MA-01 & F/A-18A++ 162882/MA-08 of VMFA-112 at nearby NAS Fort Worth. Apparently the A-10 had ‘a leak’, and was still here when i made my final visit four days later. I later discovered there were five more from this unit that had departed this morning, before my arrival! All were returning home from Nellis AFB. Also, one civil visitor today was Phenom 100 demonstrator N390EE from the Embraer facility at Melbourne, FL. This was making several local flights over a few days here, presumably demonstrating to potential customers. Needing to head off, on this busy day, there was no time to wait for the ADB An-124 that was due in later in the afternoon, from Seattle (which are regular visitors here).
Next stop then, just 9 miles North up I35W was Northwest Regional airport. This quite large GA field was mainly on the itinerary for a resident Super Dak, ex US Navy C-117D (DC-3S) N44GH. Registered to Flight Data Inc, it is fully intact, though hasn’t moved for a few years now, with the reg expired in 2011. Arriving from its previous home at nearby Denton in 2010, it was re-painted into US Navy-style colours (with ‘RDS’ on the fin) after last operating in Skyfreighters colours as N306SF, with other history including a spell as the Blue Angels support aircraft between 1953-1955. Also present here was the unusual sight of three fuselages, well wrapped in covers, with a set of wings nearby. Talking with a guy at a nearby hangar, he said they were CRJ/Challengers, owned by a company dealing in spare parts, with plans to bring a lot more (presumably retired or written off airframes).
Denton is 13 miles further up the highway, with some more nice older stuff waiting to be photographed. Alliance Air Charter are based here, with 1968-built Falcon 20C N960AA and 1969-built Falcon 20D N961AA present, along with SD-360-300 N973AA. Also present, parked outside their hangar, was Falcon 20C N911DG, painted all white with major parts missing, including the top of the fin and the engines, presumably bought by Alliance for the parts. Another, obviously more recent arrival, is Falcon 20D N5225G, which though still looking very smart, could also now be retired as a parts source. In addition, a few other old biz-jets here were 1977-built Learjet 24F N500ZA and 1971-built HS125-1A N27UM of Marathon Hawker LLC, along with 1972-built Cessna 421B N2239S, with the US reg just painted over the old Italian reg I-VESE (ex Aliadriatica).
From here, it was a further 33 miles North to Gaineseville, where a very rare classic propliner is present. More ‘Southern hospitality’ here, letting me drive across the runway by myself to reach the parking area of ATL-98 Carvair N89FA. Registered to South African Air Lease LLC since 2012, the aircraft is named ‘Fat Annie Miss 1944’, and is in good condition with frequent engine runs carried out. The only complete Carvair in the world, obviously the owners are still trying keep it airworthy, with the hope of it flying out one day. Various rumours have so far come to nothing, with it reportedly heading to South Africa in 2012, and before that, going to Brooks Fuel at Fairbanks in 2008. One of 21 Carvairs built, converted from DC-4’s, the ‘Miss 1944 name was also worn back in the 70’s when flying for BAF, being derived from it being a 1944-built USAF C-54, with a subsequent history including being registered in Mexico, Panama and Bolivia. Also present here nearby, is bare metal DC-3C N941AT without engines, outer wings and rudder. Registered to RF Diver, it still has a ‘Southern Baptist Convention, Disaster Relief Texas’ logo, next to a plate with ‘Aircraft Operated By Air Tejas Inc’, and is named ‘Vera Lynn II’. Unfortunately, several other old propliners previously here are now gone, including ex Rhoades C-47A N141JR (recently scrapped at Fort Worth Meacham), DC-3C N472AF (now at Fairview, TX), DC-3 N87745 (now at Fort Worth Meacham- see later), Convair CV-340 (C-131B) N145GT (now at Opa Locka- as mentioned in Part 1) and another unidentified Convair. Bit of a propliner graveyard, now mostly cleared, though some of these are still airworthy.
Now heading East, next stop was North Texas Regional airport at Grayson, 37 miles away. Again, friendly folk at the FBO with easy access, their hangar contained several old Learjets for sale, with very early 1970-built Learjet 25 N76UM (051), as well as 1980-built Learjet 25D N199BT, and 1978-built Learjet 25D N242GS. Outside another hangar was 1972-built Gulf 2SP N892TM, which apparently hasn’t flown ‘in months’, while parked near another hangar was even older, 1968-built HS125-3A N23CJ, looking in good condition, but also thought to be grounded. Next to this are two Beech 18’s, with Beech E18S N18LK also in good condition, and the bare metal fuselage of Beech D18S N3452B. Some nice old stuff, though after talking with the guys here, the best thing was locked out of sight in a secure hangar. Convair C-131B N131CR ‘fitted with cameras’ is apparently based here! Registered to Airborne Resources Inc, it has a modified nose cone and carrys a large pod under the fuselage. Painted in a military-style overall dark grey, it also has the Skunk Works logo on the fin. Very nice. Some you win…
Final stop on this busy day, over one hour away, around 64 miles further East along Hwy 82 was another very rare classic propliner. Parked next to the road, around 5 miles West of Paris, TX (on Co Rd 33010) next to the Flying Tigers dirt-strip, is Martin 404 N255S. Last operated by Pro-Air, and still in their basic, faded colours, it arrived here around 1993 from Bismarck, ND and is one of the very few remaining fully intact Martins’ in the world. Although registered to a Harold Sheppard Jr (Sheppard Trucking), the owner (and son of the previous owner), Ike Burchinal Jr passed by while i was there. Having a chat, he told me it was run up around a year ago, though needs some new engine parts, and is for sale to a good home. Ideally he would like it to be preserved in a museum, and doesn’t want it broken up. The last offer received, was for the engines and other parts, which was declined. And so, from here, the final long haul today was back to Dallas, and the hotel near Addison airport, 102 miles to the SE. A great first day on the road in Texas, the next five days were going to be a bit more chilled out.
DAY 11 SUNDAY 5TH MAY
Addison airport is a reasonably busy GA/Biz field, with several FBO’s and a good amount of biz present. Photographed first thing were based BAe125-800A N935H of Rent-A-Center Addison LLC, Phenom 100 N108MG, Metroliner III N430MA with Encore Air Cargo logos, and 1966-built Falcon 20C N209CA. Both of these are thought to be operated by based Cherry Air, while 1968-built Learjet 24 N151WW is ex Cherry Air, still with the logo on the fin, after being retired (reg expired in 2011) and now registered to Addison Aviation Services Inc. Nice hush-kitted Gulf 3 N77BT with MOJO Air logo on the fin looked active, though maybe not Falcon 20F N223BG, 1972-built HS125-700A N223RR of McKinney Jet Inc (converted from a 400A) and nice executive B737-200 N370BC of BCM Majestic Corp. Thought to be parked for sale after arriving from Newark on 20th April, this was originally Braathens LN-SUJ & N891FS before VIP conversion as HZ-TBA. More old classic stuff was parked around the Ameristar hangar here, though most of it difficult to shoot, being crammed on their ramp, including a DC-9. Those that could be were ancient 1965-built Falcon 20C’s N295TW (c/n 5) and N977TW (c/n 13), both retired with engines removed, while old Learjets included 1968-built Learjet 24’s N222TW & N333TW, 1973-built Learjet 24D N266TW, 1976-built Learjet 24E N330TW and 1974-built Learjet 24D N888TW. Most of these are also retired with engines removed. Finally, the Cavanaugh Flight Museum have classic Jetstar 2 N814K parked outside their hangar (with engines removed), as was Commemorative Air Force Beech D18S N70GA. Painted in RAF camo with D-Day stripes as KJ508, it is named ‘Bucket of Bolts’.
13 miles down the road is the busiest airport for executive movements in the city, Dallas Love Field, where the rest of the day was to be spent. As well as the major executive FBO’s, servicing the many private jets that use the airport, the other major player is Southwest Airlines, who have their corporate headquaters as well as maintenance hangars here. Being a major ‘focus city’, the airline operates many flights from here, and noticably (during this trip), mostly with older -300 and -500 series B737’s, so a good place to catch these before being replaced by next-gen 737’s.
Firstly, a drive along the East side FBO’s and hangars, followed by a few landing shots, provided PC-12’s N405U and XA-FFG, Beechjet 400A N314TL, Gulf 450 N844GF, Gulf 3 N384BB, Hawker 800XP N307RM and Learjet 45 N440FX among the many biz arrivals. While the sun was overhead around mid-day, i then visited the Frontiers of Flight museum, in the SE corner of the airfield. Although been here before, i had only photographed the aircraft outside, so decided to go in this time. Outside, with the nose inside, is Southwest B737-300 N300SW ‘The Spirit of Kittyhawk’, which was the very first B737-300 to enter service. Next to this, also displayed inside, is the nose section of company B737-200 N102SW, named ‘The Herbert D Kelleher’ after the airlines founder. Re-painted in the current colours, of course these were never worn when in service. Next to N300SW outside now, is YF-16B demonstrator 75-0752, the second pre-production F-16, which was previously on display inside. Also moved outside is 1973-built Learjet 24D N281FP, though dumped around the back its hardly on display. Of the highlights inside, very rare Lear Fan 2100 N21LF is one of only two that survive (the other is in Seattle). Planned to be produced in Belfast, the aircraft was made of innovative composite materials, but certification problems with the FAA lead to its eventual cancellation. Another rare, unusual aircraft, similarly abandoned before production, was the XQM-93A manned drone (known as the L-450F in unmanned configuration), with 72-01287 present, in USAF markings, also only one of two survivors. Finally, also here is the Apollo 7 Command Module.
Right next to the museum is the large ‘Associated Air Center’ hangar, which today was open with two nice aircraft present, sticking out. VIP B767-200 N767MW of Swift Air/MLW Air is based here (last seen at Long Beach), along with Mexican AF B757-200 TP-01/XC-UJM (getting some work done). Also from the museum car park, if runway 31R is used for arrivals, this would be a good photospot in the morning. Today, all movements were using ‘31L until around mid-day, with ‘31R just about to be opened as well, with both runways then in use, for landings from the SE. So, for the afternoon, first finding a good photospot for arrivals onto runway 31L, highlights were Southwest B737-700 N713SW ‘SeaWorld Shamu’ logo jet, 1945-built SNJ-6 Texan N269CB in US Navy colours (named ‘Anytime’), Southwest B737-700 N439WN named ‘The Donald G Ogden’ (after retired VP of Flight Ops) and Falcon 900B N901TX. However, with most arrivals now using ‘31R, i changed position and found another photospot for this runway, for the rest of the afternoon, in the great weather. Before this, a quick shot of resident VIP BAC1-11-419EP N999BW of Business Jet Access, while along the Western perimeter fence (more on this later).
Obviously Sunday PM is busy with biz, with big-wigs getting back into town for work Monday morning etc. First highlight was very nice Ameristar Charters B737-200 N733TW. Based at nearby Addison, this 56 all-first class seat classic B737 is ex Southwest N83SW, and often chartered by sports teams and music groups etc. This was followed by based PC-12 N58VS, operating for SeaPort Airlines as SQH7 from Hot Springs, Cessna 650 N132CE from Houston Hobby, T Boone Pickens Gulf 550 N522BP, AT&T Falcon 7X N906SB, Flight Options Cessna 750 N708FL as OPT708 from Tucson, and BAe125-800A N430BB of Baron & Budd. The first foreigner was Canadian Gulf 150 C-FTXX of Manitoba Ltd of Winnipeg, followed by a couple of biz-props, with Beech 350 N45GA and Pa-46-500TP N351C, inbound from Santa Fe, NM. More biz continued, with CL604 N1903G from Chicago Midway, Challenger 300 N305EM of Exxon Mobil Corp, Beechjet 400A N43BD, and classic Sabreliner 65 N465BC arriving from its Memphis base (where it was photographed last Sunday). The final biz arrivals, shot in ‘golden hour’ were Hawker 800XP N804BH from Oakland, Merlin III N46SA from Las Vegas (New Mexico), sweet little Phenom 100 XA-UOB of Eolo Plus SA, BAe125-1000A N567CL from Jack Brooks Regional, TX, Learjet 45 N917LH of Kodiak Jet, Anchorage, Flight Options Phenom 300 N332FL as OPT332 from Lakefront, New Orleans, and NetJets Cessna 750 N931QS as EJA931 from Monterey, CA.
Finally, before leaving, a couple of shots through the fence were of recently registered Global Express N356AP. This was registered on 16th April, and is ex M-RUAT & HB-IKZ, replacing CL604 N356AP (which is now in India). Also parked here was Learjet 45 XA-SAA (previously G-LLOD), while of the parked/stored biz-liners on a Northern perimeter ramp, all white B727-200 N615PA of Aircorp Inc was photographed, along with B757-200 N757SS of Juliet Romeo Aviation. This was originally Air Europe’s G-BKRM, and up until recently both of these carried sports teams logos, with this having ‘Dallas Stars/Texas Rangers’ and the B727 having ‘New Jersey Devils’. From here, it was onto the hotel for the final four nights, near Fort Worth Meacham, just to the West of Dallas.
DAY 12 MONDAY 6TH MAY
The next three days were to be spent at three airfields in this area, Fort Worth Meacham, Fort Worth Alliance and NAS Fort Worth. The basic plan was to spend most of the time at the NAS, with visits to Alliance & Meacham first thing in the morning and maybe evening. As mentioned in the first visit to Alliance, this place gets quite a lot of transiting and night stopping visitors, and you never know what to expect. Todays sunrise visit (with the morning being the best time for photography), seeing USAF KC-135R 60-0341 of the 121ARW OH ANG ‘Ohio’, US Navy F/A-18A 162854/AF-413 of VFA-204 ‘River Rattlers’ at NAS New Orleans (in a nice 3-tone camo), a nice pair of US Navy F-5N aggressors from VFC-111 at NAS Key West: 761591/AF-120 in a brown/stone/green camo, and 761550/AF-121 in a dark grey/light grey/light blue camo, and a pair of USMC T-34C’s from TAW-4 at NAS Corpus Christie, TX: 160647/G-730 & 164166/G-853, in addition to USAF T-38C 66-4325/EN and A-10C 78-0704/MD still present since Saturdays visit. A very nice selection, present with Phenom 100 demonstrator N390EE, also still here since Saturday. In addition, based here are five of the FAA Flight Standards Service Beech C90GTX’s, with N13, N14, N15, N16 and N17 all present this morning, out of their hangar prior to departing. Gone is the old ‘Air Force One’ style FAA colours, with these carrying a more modern scheme.
Then heading down to NAS Fort Worth, a quick look around Meacham was made en route. This is quite a busy GA/biz field, with a couple of museums (to do later). Also here is the largest aircraft painting company in the States, Leading Edge, who have a large hangar. A contract with Boeing to paint new B787’s is carried out here, along with occasional biz-liners. Hoping for a 787 to arrive or depart over the three days in the area, wasn’t to be, although they did have one inside (id not known). Of the biz present, only a couple were good for a shot, with Cessna 650 N622CS and nice Do328-300JET N429FJ of Ultimate Jet Charters. Previously operated by Delta Connection before VIP conversion, it seems to be based here. Also present was early 1976-built Beech 200 C-GCET with Creewest Air logo and ‘Operated by Air Bravo’. Actually, after being sold, this was officialy registered as N124KT on 12th April, for Pollard Aircraft Sales Inc. Finally, parked on a Southerly ramp, near the fire station, is MD-87 N176AS. Still in ex Austrian Airlines colours (ex OE-LMK), with engines removed, it was sold in 2005 to Aircraft and Engine Support LLC, and ended up here, where the reg recently expired on 31st January.
And so onto NAS Fort Worth for the first visit here. Resident units are US Navy VR-59 with the C-40A, USMC VMGR-234 with KC-130T’s, VMFA-112 ‘Cowboys’ with F/A-18A’s, USAF 181AS/136AW TX ANG with C-130H’s, and 457FS/301FW AFRC ‘Spads’ flying F-16C/D’s ‘Fort Worth’. Also based are the US Army Reserve C-12R+ of the 339 MI Co (Military Intelligence Company), painted all grey. The main interest though, is the Lockheed Martin Plant 4 factory, with the final production lines for the F-16 and F-35, meaning all of these are first flown and tested here, before delivery to domestic units or overseas customers. Looking into photography here, several well known photospots around the Southern perimeter were known about, though i was also aware of reports of a recent clamp down by security. Previously, using steps against the fence was fine, but no longer it seems, as i was to find out myself, after a (friendly) chat with security police. However, landing shots from the South (onto runway 35), are still possible from either side, from a couple of photospots away from the fence. Actually, it was thought that landing shots from the North (onto runway 17), were probably more difficult, with Lake Worth right next to the runway at this end. However, good photospots on the land on the opposite side of the lake were later found (after a runway change), with the best shots actually coming from this end. So, with runway 35 in use today, based KC-130T 163310/QH departed and returned later, as did based F/A-18A 162467/MA-14 and F/A-18A++ 162882/MA-08. KC-130T 162310/QH (recently used as the Blue Angels support aircraft) then taxied out for engine runs, followed by departing based C-40A 165833. Following the return of the Hornets, several T-38C’s from Sheppard AFB carried out multiple approaches: 64-13239/EN of the 90FTS/80FTW ‘Boxin Bears’, and 66-4350/EN, 67-14849/EN & 69-7073/EN of the 469FTS/80FTW ‘Fighting Bulls’. In the afternoon, the same two Hornets carried out another local mission, while unmarked USMC F/A-18A+ 162843 arrived. These were followed by Lockheed Martin F-16DM 90-0848 test aircraft. Also serving as a ‘chase plane’ for F-16 and F-35 test flights, it has the Lockheed Martin logo on the fin, along with a ‘waving’ texas flag. Finally, another Hornet arrival was US Navy F/A-18C 164907/AD-363 of VFA-106 at NAS Oceana. In addition, also noted was the tail fin of ex USNavy C-9B 164606/RS (ex VR-61 at Whidby Island), which had been retired to AMARG in 2007. Placed upright on a grassed area near the main gate, maybe this is to be made into a ‘proper’ gate guard here?
So, not exactly a ‘thrilling’ first day here, thankfully things were going to get much better, with a change in runway, and fortune over the next two days. Finally for today, was another visit to Alliance, to try and get some night shots, just after sundown. Again, still no security issues, with nice shots of the Phenom 100 demonstrator N390EE and A-10C 78-0704/MD.
DAY 13 TUESDAY 7TH MAY
Following last nights visit to Alliance, there would obviously be nothing new there first thing this morning, so only another visit to Meacham was made before onto NAS Fort Worth. Nice surprise, parked among the biz, was 1959-built Beech E18S N7MB with ‘Wild Honey’ nose art! With a VIP/passenger interior, complete with curtains on the windows, it is registered to a Michael H Glenn, and was visiting from its home at Midland, TX. Of the biz photographed, Falcon 2000 N844UP of the Union Pacific Railroad Co, and Learjet 40XR N998AL of Alex Lyon Auctioneers Inc, are both in nice schemes (the latter with a lion’s head on the fin). Also, caught departing, were Challenger 300 N202XT of XTO Energy Inc, and Falcon 900EX N6666R of Burnett Aviation (with unusual typeface for the number 6’s).
Day 2 at NAS Fort Worth, with clear blue sky and ‘lightning’ in the area… Going to the same morning photospot as yesterday, i soon discovered they were using runway 17, with take off’s towards me. As well as the same two based VMFA-112 Hornets as yesterday, also launching this morning were six resident Texas Reserve F-16C’s: 85-1457/TX (‘457FS’), 85-1468/TX, 86-0216/TX, 86-0219/TX, 86-0242/TX (‘10th AF’) and 86-0246/TX. Re-locating to the North of the runway, i was pleased to find a good photospot for the morning recoveries. As well as the two Hornets and six Vipers, a few more Sheppard T-38C’s made approaches: 66-8353/EN of the 90FTS, and 65-10359/EN & 67-14849/EN of the 469FTS. Then finally, what i was really hoping to see here, some ‘new stuff’ test flying. Presumably missing them take off after re-locating to this end, brand new Egyptian AF F-16C 9758 was returning, after two approaches, along with Lockheed Martin F-16DM ‘chase plane’ 90-0848. Part of the ‘Peace Vector VII’ FMS program, this Block 52 Viper was wearing the full Egyptian markings (which will normally be blanked-out for the delivery flight). Nice!
With the usual break for lunch, the afternoon departures then began, which can’t be seen easily at this end due to trees. Sounded good though, with a lot of stuff going out, hopefully to return soon. The first to return… and the first seen, the first photographed, and how fitting, the first production aircraft for the UK… F-35B Lightning II ZM137. Painted with the RAF fin flash and low-viz roundels, this first production JSF for the UK (c/n BK-03) first flew on 1st April, following the two test aircraft (ZM135 & ZM136, already delivered to Eglin AFB, which will apparently remain Stateside). Only the one straight-in approach to catch this first sight of an F-35, i’m sure Marham will be a popular place in around five years time, when apparently the first aircraft will arrive at their new home for the RAF and Royal Navy, following prolonged testing here in the States. After flying now for five weeks, i guess the chase plane is no longer required, with no F-16 accompanying this test flight. What did follow though, five minutes later, was another amazing and unusual looking aircraft, the heavily modified B737-300 N35LX of Lockheed Martin. Previously Lufthansa’s D-ABXH, the CATB (Cooperative Avionics Test Bed) or ‘Catbird’ has been modified to include an F-35 nose cone and a sensor wing on the sides of the forward fuselage, among other things. After returning home from a (regular) two-day visit to Eglin AFB on the 1st, todays flight, ‘Catbird 1’ had departed at 1154, and operated a racetrack pattern to the SW of Fort Worth, before landing back at 1505. Also today, the first shots of a based US Army C-12R+, with 95-00100 returning with a couple of approaches. This was followed by three resident F-16C’s RTB: 85-1457/TX (‘457FS’), 85-1458/TX & 86-0219/TX, and two based Hornets: F/A-18A 162467/MA-14, F/A-18A++ 162882/MA-08. Awesome day, that’s more like it!
From here, it was back up to Alliance to see what was new, in the last hour or two of sunlight. Afternoon shots are not so good, facing the sun, so first heading to the end of the runway, a couple caught inbound, were JetSuite Phenom 100 N580JS as RSP633 from Dallas Executive (just to the SW of Dallas), and Cessna 750 N75TX of Bell Helicopter Textron (who have a Customer Center and large hangar here). Also noted was Alliance Air Charter SD-360-300 N973AA, flying Southbound quite low, presumably out of their Denton base. From this photospot, a couple of FedEx B727’s could be seen better at the large FedEx facility. Noticing they hadn’t moved over several visits here, now i could see why, they were wfu, with the cockpit windows sealed up (one being B727-200F N223FE). Further to this and Part 1’s Memphis report, the final FedEx B727 revenue service was operated on 21st June, with N481FE returning to Memphis as FDX727 from Indianapolis. Two other domestic flights positioned in that night, with a couple based in South America, returning later that week, so that all B727 flights were finished by the end of June. End of an era. Finally at Alliance, waiting for the lights to come on, just after sundown, for some night shots, Cessna 750 N75TX was photographed again, along with USAF KC-135R 58-0038 of the AFRC 77ARS/916ARW ‘First In Flight’ (Seymour Johnson AFB).
DAY 14 WEDNESDAY 8TH MAY
Having seen a nice visitor planned into Alliance late last night on flightaware, it was back up there first thing this morning, for what would be a final visit. Beech 350CER N68RF of the NOAA (National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration) had arrived around 2230 last night from Edwards AFB as NOAA68, and had night stopped before continuing on to Fort Myers today, just across the water from its home base of MacDill AFB in Florida. Specially modified for aerial remote sensing operations, it has US Dept of Commerce titles and interesting little nose art. While here, others photograhed were the KC-135R from last night, USAF T-38C 65-10428/XL of 87FTS/47FTW ‘Red Bulls’ from Laughlin AFB in SW Texas, and all five of the based FAA Beech 90’s, which were departing. Then, before heading off, a quick stop by the end of the runway for a FedEx Feeder Caravan that was due in, with Cessna 208B N957FE arriving from Midland, TX.
Another final visit, was to Meacham this morning, again en route to the NAS. Big surprise today was the ATK (Alliant Techsystems Inc) MC-27J N359PL, out of its hangar doing engine runs. Wasn’t aware it lived here! Registered to Alenia Aermacchi North America Inc, the demonstrator has been around for a few years (as a ‘regular C-27J’), though is now painted in a dark camo scheme with ‘MC-27J’ and the spartan logo on the fin. Returning here from Special Ops base, Duke Field, FL on 18th March after live firing trials, ATK (who specialize in ‘weaponization’ of special mission aircrat) are testing the aircraft as an armed ‘multi-mission’ version of the Spartan. As a demonstrator, the aircraft was later displayed at the Paris Airshow 2013. Also photographed, were a couple of the biz present, Falcon 20F-5 N18HN of APA Aircraft Staffing LLC (ex HB-VKO) and local Falcon 50 N70BR of Rosair Inc.
Today i had also planned on visiting the two museums here, the Veterans Memorial Air Park and the Vintage Flying Museum. Special access is needed at the latter during the week, which is normally only open Fri-Sun. Main interest here are a couple of old propliners, with the museums DC-3 N87745 painted as USAAF 41-6531/T9 ‘Southern Cross’ (with D-Day stripes) parked outside. Also outside, on the grass to the side of the hangar is the rear fuselage (with inboard wings and rear cowlings) of Convair 640 N860FW, still in Kitty Hawk Air Cargo colours. Purchased by Rhoades Aviation in 2000, presumably for parts, scrapping was started last year and is soon to be completed on the remaining airframe, with the reg just cancelled on 9th April. Four other aircraft were present until recently, but they had gone through the same process and are now history. Final remains of Convair 640 N3407 and C-47A’s N141JR, N19721 & N86553 were removed in the last couple of years. Also currently outside is ex US Navy EA-3B Skywarrior 146453/JV-003, which arrived for restoration from AMARG (code 2A126 still visible) a few months ago. Having operated with VQ-2 at Rota, Spain from 1960 until retirement after Desert Storm in 1991, the ‘Whale’ was later operated by Raytheon at Van Nuys for weapons testing until 2011. Also awaiting restoration, is USAF CH-21B ‘Flying Banana’ 53-4324, which was previously displayed at Cresson, TX. Moving inside the VFM hangar, ex Bolivian AF F-86F FAB-658 has been present here since at least 2006, and still has the full original markings with a GAC-32 unit badge on the fin, and US reg N8630 (which expired in 2011) roughly painted on using a spray can. Also inside was airworthy A-26B Invader N240P of the Commemorative Air Force, painted in black USAAF markings as 43-7140/R ‘Texas Special’, B-26K ‘Counter Invader’ N4988N, being restored as USAF 64-17679/IF ‘Special Kay’, B-25N N1042B/44-30823 restored as USAAF ‘Pacific Prowler’, Beech D18S N197L/KR-411 in US Navy Dallas JRB-6 markings, and AT-6D N101NZ/NZ1079 in RNZAF markings.
Close by is the Veterans Memorial Air Park. New arrival here is ex Blue Angels F/A-18A 162826/3, which was roaded in from NAS Fort Worth 16th March. Others present include two Phantoms: F-4C 64-0825/AF-201 ex USAF (retired by the 301TFW at Carswell AFB in 1987), now painted in US Navy VF-202 markings, and US Navy QF-4S 153821/107 ex VX-30 ‘Bloodhounds’ at Point Mugu, CA (the last US Navy/Marines F-4 to fly), two US Navy Skyhawks: A-4C 147715 and TA-4J 158073/AF-02 ex TW-2 at NAS Kingsville (painted in desert camo), US Navy ‘Aggressor’ F-5E 741558/red 13 ex VFC-13, USAF F-105D 60-5385 ex 149TFS/192TFG VA ANG, USAF F-111E 68-0009/UH ex 77TFS/20TFW at Upper Heyford, and three OV-10A Bronco’s: USMC OV-10A 155426 and USAF 68-3825. Both of these last flew for the BLM (Bureau of Land Management) in Fairbanks during the 90’s, as N97LM & N646 respectively. Finally, full scale OV-10 factory mock-up NAA-001 is restored as USMC ‘52879’.
From here it was on to NAS Fort Worth for the rest of the day, for the final visit here. Again using runway 17, the morning launches were just returning as i arrived in position. Again, resident units were in action, with the usual two VMFA-112 Hornets recovering, along with three Texas Reserve Vipers: F-16C’s 85-1472/TX & 86-0246/TX, and F-16D 85-1571/TX (their only two-seater seen). These were followed by BAe125-800A N2032 of the US Marshals Service, obviously quite a surprise to see on approach here. Thankfully, another busy afternoon was ahead, after the usual break before things started to return. Again, the resident Vipers were active, with the following returning: F-16C’s 85-1410/TX, 85-1412/TX, 85-1472/TX & 85-1556/TX, along with VMFA-112 Hornets: F/A-18A 162467/MA-14 & F/A-18A++ 162882/MA-08, flying with F/A-18+ 162843. This had arrived on Monday, and has ‘Marines’ on the left side and ‘Navy’ on the right, with no unit markings or code.
Then a fantastic sight, Lockheed Martin F-16DM ‘chase plane’ 90-0848 on formation approach with USAF F-35A 10-5015/EG. This is another JSF for the 58FS/33FW based at Eglin AFB, FL (the first USAF unit to receive the type), test flying fully painted with unit markings, making no fewer than four approaches! Finally, a few nice heavier things to finish off a great few days here. The first based USAF 181AS/136AW TX ANG C-130H seen, with 85-1362 inbound, followed by another first of type seen and photographed, US Navy P-8A 168429/L of VP-16 at NAS Jacksonville. With a large ‘Patrol Sixteen, Nothing But Excellence’ unit badge on the right side nose, the previous ‘LL’ tail code and unit logo (bird) is still just visible after being removed, with only a single ‘L’ remaining! LL is the code for VP-30 at Jacksonville, the other P-8A unit there, who it was previously painted up for (VP-16’s code is LF). 429 is the second production aircraft, with VP-16 now flying the first operational P-8A’s after reaching IOC this February. Following this was another nice B737, with N35LX of Lockheed Martin flying again today. ‘Catbird 1’ had departed at 1345 and operated a longer racetrack pattern, to the West of Fort Worth, before landing back at 1720. Another great day here.
DAY 15 THURSDAY 9TH MAY
After the final night in the hotel and checking out, the good luck with the weather had finally run out! Today was going to be grimey. Going to Plan B, i decided on another day at Love Field, where maybe the weather would be better over the East side of Dallas. No! Infact, a major downpour with thunder and lightning was on its way. First then, a look along the Eastern perimeter, with CL600S N550CW parked up, and a few inbounds, landing from the North today. Premier 1 N76HL with ‘Hixson Lumber Sales’ logo on the fin, Cessna 680 N110LE of Platinum Air, and Gulf 550 N200A of Exxon Mobil Corp. This is the latest of many aircraft to carry this reg, with the last one, a Global Express, traded in to Gulfstream for this thing. Also photographed from here were a couple of Southwest specials, with ‘Lone Star One’ B737-300(WL) N352SW and ‘Classic’ retrojet B737-700 N714CB (with personalized reg for ex President of Southwest, Colleen Barrett).
With runway 13R being used for most take offs and landings, a new photospot was tried, Parking Garage B. This has very good close views, looking down on aircraft landed and rotating on ‘13R, though not being sure about the security situation (with cameras around), i was very ‘discreet’. As for the conditions, sometimes terrible weather can make for great shots, with the wet creating some dramatic effects, including for Southwest B737-700 N250WN, deploying the reverse thrust on the flooded runway. So, as well as the many Southwest (again, mostly the older -300 and -500 aircraft), biz photographed over the three hour period here, included Learjet 31A N840SW, Gulf 450 N588AT, Learjet 45 N918DG, Cessna 525 N800NB, Learjet 40 N554HD, Cessna 550 Bravo N100WT, Learjet 40 N77HN, Beech C90 N149CF of CareFlight (air ambulance), AT&T Falcon 7X N906SB, Beechjet 400A N314TL, Cessna 560XL N411KQ, Falcon 50EX N928WK and Hawker 800XP N305SC.
Finally, resident VIP BAC1-11-419EP N999BW of Business Jet Access, is now parked outside their FBO on the Western perimeter here. Having visited to photograph the enthusiasts charter in 2011, i had a quick call in to speak with the lovely Chaney there (who had organized everything back then). She confirmed that the planned enthusiasts charters planned for this October, unfortunately had to be cancelled due to the aircraft being grounded with parts problems. After last flying last September (FAA check ride for pilot currency), the aircraft remains for sale, with 10,145 hours TT, for which BJA are trying to maintain airworthiness, with the hope to fly again by next year. Obviously, the 1-11 is worth a lot more airworthy, and is not really much use as spares, if it came to the worst. Its thought only two 1-11’s are flying in the world now, the Northrop Grumman test aircraft at Baltimore, who could be the only ones interested in N999BW for parts, but lets hope it doesn’t come to that.
Finally for this trip, one last stop, en route to DFW for the flight home, was to the American Airlines CR Smith museum. On display inside here is immaculate (inside and out) DC-3-227B NC21798 ‘Flagship Knoxville’, which operated for the airline between 1940 and 1948. From here, it was the short distance to the rental return and on to check in for BA192 to Heathrow. Operated by B747-400 G-CIVX, departure was at 1855, landing 8.30 hours later at 0925L on the 10th, for a very quick connection onto BA125 to Bahrain. Operated by B777-200ER G-VIIG, departure was at 1050, landing 6.20 hours later at 1915L.