USA & Canada April-May 2014 Part II - jazz707

USA & Canada April-May 2014 'The Twelve States Road Trip' Part II


DAY 9 SATURDAY 3RD MAY

Completing the long drive from St Louis to Tupelo, the final 100 miles from Jackson, Tennessee, was fairly quickly done first thing this morning. As mentioned in the Part I intro, Tupelo was unfortunate in being badly hit by the recent tornadoes, and driving through the outskirts of the city, the sights of devastation were some of the worst i would see on this trip. Arriving at the airport, there was plenty of time for a good look around the perimeter, before the planned Open Day at UAM later in the afternoon. Another company involved in the 'aircraft salvage' business, UAM (Universal Asset Management) moved here in 2012 after starting up at Walnut Ridge in Arkansas. As reported on in the USA April-May 2013 report, the company left behind two B747's and a few nose sections (as well as plenty of debris) after vacating Walnut Ridge. Since moving here, they have certainly been busy, with quite a lot of aircraft 'processed', or going through similar fates. Of course, mention also has to be made of the Open Days here, which the company currently has on the first Saturday of every month. Unusual but very welcome, that a company in this 'game' actually encourages the public (and so enthusiasts/photographers) to visit their facility. Unlike probably all other similar companies (including the two already visited on this trip), the concerns that 'our customers would not appreciate photographs being taken' etc, are not shared here, with a community spirit that has to be commended (more on this later).

Firstly then, the line-up of aircraft parked on the disused runway, next to Air Park Road (along the SE perimeter fence) were photographed... former Air China Cargo B747-400BCF N939BA (ex B-2463) in basic colours (arrived Aug 2013), Lufthansa 'Star Alliance' A340-300 D-AIGC (arrived Nov 2013), all yellow ANA B747-400D JA8957 previously in 'Pokemon' colours (arrived Oct 2013), Air Pacific/Fiji Airways B747-400 DQ-FJK (arrived Nov 2013), Malaysian A330-300's 9M-MKE and 9M-MKJ in basic colours (arrived Nov 2013 and Feb 2014), two more Lufthansa A340-300's D-AIGD (arrived Jan 2014) and untouched D-AIGF (arrived March 2014), as well as two more ANA B747-400D's JA8960 (arrived March 2014) and JA8966 (arrived Jan 2014), both with titles and regs painted out. All of these (apart from D-AIGF) have at least their engines removed, with D-AIGC probably as totally stripped as is possible (including the whole flightdeck removed) before the inevitable end.

From here, driving around into the airport, the following were then also photograhed, around the UAM facilities... Monarch A300B4-605R's G-MAJS (arrived Feb 2014) and G-MONS (arrived Nov 2013), as well as A320 G-OZBB (also arrived Nov 2013), all in basic colours with engines removed, another Lufthansa A340-300 D-AIGH, complete still with engines (arrived Feb 2014), United B757-200's N508UA (arrived Sep 2013) and N525UA (arrived Oct 2013), as well as B737-500 N941UA (arrived Nov 2012), all heavily stripped with engines removed. Also here was the other ANA B747-400D present, JA8961, now with titles and reg painted over, though still complete with engines. This is a bit special in being the very last ANA B747 to be retired, of the 46 'Lumps' operated by the airline from 1978-2014. Arriving on 17th April, it was given a water cannon salute and an official retirement ceremony with invited guests. Apparently there were 27 Japanese enthusiasts on board, who had paid around $8,000 to join the final flight. As well as all these, also to mention, were a pair of former United B737-500 nose sections, strapped down onto pallets. Still in the old 'Tulip' colours, they were only identified by their registrations written on with marker pen... N912UA (arrived May 2012) and N932UA (arrived Aug 2012). Finally, one visitor parked on the GA ramp, was USAF T-6A 98-3540/CB of the 37FTS/14FTW 'Bengal Tigers' at Columbus AFB.

Now, still with a lot of time before the UAM Open Day, i knocked on their door to confirm the plans for the afternoon. Again, the recent bad weather was still having an effect on things, as most of the company staff were out, doing 'community outreach work', helping with the clean up etc after the Tornadoes. Again, the company showing great community spirit. So, being told the Open Day 'should' start a bit later, maybe around 3pm, led to a re-think. With good shots of around 90% of the aircraft present, and with quite a bit of driving still to be done today, i then decided to head off. Although i'd done a lot of planning to be here on this day, in the end, it wasn't really necessary to catch the Open Day. So, now with a 200 mile push on to the Nashville area, there was a bit of 'culture' to take in first. Tupelo is now probably quite well known to the enthusiast, as a 'scrapping field', though is more widely known as the birthplace of Elvis Presley! At the NE of the city, along Elvis Presley Drive, a museum is situated alongside the original small family home, where the redneck King was born. So, Graceland last year, and Tupelo this year... you'd think i was a fan!

And so, leaving Tupelo heading NW, the next stop was Murfreesboro Airport, just to the SE of Nashville. The long drive was mostly along US 64E, otherwise known as the Natchez Trace Parkway, which passes along the scenic trail, through Mississippi, Alabama and Tennessee. A popular tourist route, the Natchez Trace dates back many centuries, with historic landmarks dotting the trail, passing through the traditional Native American homelands of the Natchez, Chickasaw and Choctaw nations. Although long, it was a very nice drive, in great weather, finally reaching Murfreesboro around tea time. Here, the MTSU (Middle Tennessee State University) have B727-025C N117FE, donated by FedEx for use by the university's Department of Aerospace for training. Arriving from Memphis in May 2002, it was then re-painted into 'MTSU' colours and named 'Spirit of Partnership' in 2004. Just this one classic of interest here really, the MTSU also have ancient Beech 90 N190BT parked outside as well. Built in 1965, its the 59th King Air produced.

From here, the next stop was Smyrna, around 12 miles to the NW. Some may recall this being the former home of CL-44-O 9G-LCA around 2000-2002, before it made it across the Atlantic to Teesside (and then Bournemouth). More classic tri-jets here, with seven old B727's parked up, mostly derelict for many years, with engines and other parts missing. Unfortunately, access requests were denied, with only distant shots of the aircraft possible in the end, being parked on the Eastern side of the airfield, where there is no public access. This is partly due to the large Tennessee Army National Guard base, which has a ramp nearby. Here, the Army Aviation Support Facility #1 operates quite a large fleet, with a few Blackhawks seen, though none were photographed. However, a couple of biz parked nearby were managed, with Cessna 680 N110LE of Platinum Air in a hangar, and all blue PC-12 N457KA of Kolob Canyons Air Services.

Of the B727's present, six are -200's now registered to Red Apple Lease Corp... N268US and N272US (and another unidentified) are still in basic Northwest colours, N385PA is still in full Pan Am colours, N389PA is still in Capitol Air colours, while N590CA is ex Prestige Airways. The seventh aircraft is thought to be VIP B727-027 N766JS owned by One Charter LLC, which arrived in Feb 2011 from San Antonio, and may have had some work done recently (including fresh paint on the fin)? Some may recall this as N60FM of Forbes Magazine, when painted all green and gold back in the 80's and 90's. Also to mention one other B727-200, the fuselage of N291SC was also located here, next to a road close to the ArNG East side. Still painted in Sun Country colours, it was broken up here around 2004, with the fuselage then kept, reportedly to be converted into a 'house'. Although still visible on Google Earth around the end of last year, it is now gone.

As well as the 727's, there are a handful of derelict Jetstream 31's and 41's parked here, again though, on the Eastern side of the airfield. On the more accessible West side, around the Smyrna Air Center FBO/MRO and Corporate Flight Management ramps, a couple of Ameriflight twin feeder-freighters present, included Beech 1900C-1 N338AF and Metro III N569UP. More biz around here as well, including residents Cessna 650 N926CB, 43 year old HS125-400A N765TS of Songbird Aviation, still airworthy and looking good, and another classic, Westwind 1124 N481NS of HL Aviation, which arrived from Jacksonville in February, and is now for sale here with CFM. Finally, a nice surprise, parked on the Smyrna Air Center ramp, were four USAF T-6A's from the 71FTW at Vance AFB (all coded VN). Looking nice in the early evening sun, 04-3726 and 04-3727 were marked as 8FTS 'Eight Ballers', while 05-3761 and 05-3770 were from the 33FTS 'Dragons'.

Heading off, the final stop today was Nashville International, a further 25 miles to the NW. Arriving just before sundown, a few shots here included highlight, Prescott Aviation Support L-100-30 N3755P parked up. Also here are a fair amount of wfu/stored Jungle Jets, parked around the Embraer facility on the NW side and the ExpressJet facility on the South side. Some with engines removed, these included former Delta Connection/Freedom Airlines ERJ-145LR's N832MJ, N836MJ, N849MJ and N852MJ all in old 'Deltaflot' colours, as well as similar all white N838MJ, and former Trans States Airlines N852HK, still in the old United 'Tulip' colours. All of these are now registered to Aerovision Aircraft Services. And that was it, at the end of another long day, with a lot of miles covered, there was still the drive on to the hotel. Having started the day at Jackson, Tennessee, and travelled through Mississippi, Alabama and Tennessee (again), it was now on to the hotel... in Kentucky! 'Just' another 140 miles then, on to Elizabethtown, most of the way towards the next place on the schedule, Louisville, the home of UPS. Staying well outside the city on this occasion was also intentional for another reason, as even the cheapest motels in and around town were charging up to ten times their normal rate! Obviously something big going on? Indeed, probably the biggest event in the region... the Kentucky Derby.


DAY 10 SUNDAY 4TH MAY

Heading straight on to Louisville International first thing, 35 miles to the North, first stop was the FBO ramps on the East side, which were already busy with a lot of the executive movements connected with the Kentucky Derby. This is certainly the busiest airport (though not the only one) in the area for the huge amount of biz traffic for the Derby. It would be amazing to see a list of the total biz movements over the week, and is not surprising that organised enthusiasts tours from the UK have headed over for the event, which must rank alongside other similar major sporting events, such as the Superbowl, when it comes to biz movements. The morning after the main race then, as those who had stayed the night were starting to leave, with night-stopping biz heading off, while others were positioning in, to collect their passengers. A few of these photographed included... Monaco Government Falcon 7X 3A-MGA, nice Gulf 650 N650DA of Adam Aviation (based at Easterwood Field, TX), Global Express XRS N981TS of US Bank Corp, Cessna 750 N750DX of JPMorgan Chase Bank, Hawker 800XP N800WW, Cessna 525B N15PG, Hawker 900XP N85PK, Learjet 45 N40NB, NetJets Hawker 900XP N881QS, Learjet 45XR N445N, Cessna 560XLS N560GB and Phenom 300 N316TA.

Of course, similar to FedEx at Memphis, UPS dominate this place, with a huge facility and a lot of aircraft present. Schedules on this Sunday morning included a total of 10 UPS arrivals from 0810-1010, which i would try and catch, with 18 departures around late afternoon (which i wouldn't). So, heading to a spot around the end of the main landing runway (35L), the following were then photographed... UPS B767-300FER(WL)'s N337UP and N348UP, FedEx Express A300F4-605R N688FE, Flexjet Challenger 300 N525FX, US Airways Express/Air Wisconsin CRJ-200ER N444ZW, Cessna 650 N949SA, Cessna 560XL N504LV, Challenger 300 N596MC, Gulf 4 N611JM, Global Flight Challenger 300 N425BD (demo colours), UPS A300F4-622R N146UP and Beechjet 400A N420CT. Unfortunately, with the fairly constant arrivals in great weather, i was then to find out that UPS have a negative attitude towards photographers close to their facilities, after being reported to the police. After the usual conversation about doing nothing wrong (just photographing aircraft in the air), but still expected to 'move on', the lesson here is to be discreet as possible. I'd certainly like to return one day, for longer, with the Derby week obviously being a great time to do it. Today though, needing to push on anyway, i decided to call it a day here, after another look at the FBO ramps on the East side. Different biz included... Cessna 650 N478PA, Phenom 100 N26SH, 'Wheels Up' Beech 350i N822UP, BAe125-1000 N880LT, NetJets Falcon 2000's N268QS and N281QS, US Army C-12D 84-24379 of OSACOM, Falcon 50 N960S of Billabong Air, Gulf 550 N870CM and Falcon 2000 N427GW. Then, just about to head off, i noticed a UPS MD-11F downwind, so headed back to the last spot for a very quick 'naughty' landing shot! Nice to catch three-holer N294UP, though i then left feeling it was a shame i didn't get at least one of the company's B747-400F's and B757-200F's, for shots of one of each type operated.

So, from here, it was across the city to Bowman Field, just 5 miles to the NE. An average size GA field, they also receive some of the Derby traffic, with a few twins photographed during this short visit... Merlin IIIB N127WD of Ponderosa Air, PC-12 N955AF of PlaneSense Inc, and Beech 350 N900WP. Also present here, parked on a far ramp, is bare metal Lockheed 18-08 Lodestar N119J (which has no visible reg). Appearing to be in reasonable condition, it is fairly complete apart from the missing engines, apparently after being parked here for almost 20 years now. So the story goes, while registered to Casablanca Airlines around 1986, it was abandoned here after a drug run, when it landed without clearance. Still registered to Casablanca Airlines when finally cancelled from the register a year ago, it had been impounded by the airport authority, before being handed over to the Kentucky Aviation Historical Society by 1994. A lot more history here, Bowman Field is infact Kentucky's first commercial airport and is the oldest continually operating commercial airfield in North America, opening in 1921. The original main airport for Louisville until 1947, when flights were transferred to Standiford Field (now Louisville International), it was used in the Bond film Goldfinger as the base for Pussy Galore's Flying Circus in 1963. Today, the original 1929 built art deco terminal building has been restored, while period hangars also survive.

Moving on, the next stop was Lexington 'Blue Grass' Airport, around 60 miles to the East. This regional airport has a few domestic services by some of the usual carriers, with busy FBO Tac Air handling a good amount of biz movements. Infact, despite being over 60 miles away, they also receive a fair amount of Derby traffic, including some of those photographed today, leaving for home. As well as these, the afternoon spent here was to be memorable for some very special visitors, with some fantastic access restoring my faith in mankind, following the sadly familiar experience at Louisville earlier today! First, the Aviation Museum of Kentucky here, has a few aircraft on display, with a couple outside, including nice USMC F-4S 153904/000 from VMFA-321/MAG-41 Det A 'Hell's Angels' at Andrews AFB (MG code not worn). Those inside include US Navy F-14B 161860/AC-101 from VFA-32 'Fighting Swordsmen' at NAS Oceana (marked 'USS Harry S Truman'), and USAF AT-38B 64-13292 painted as 'Thunderbirds' #1, which was last operated by the 479TTW at Holloman AFB (coded HM).

As part of the museum's viewing facilities, they have an outside fenced off seating area, which overlooks the GA ramp and Tac Air FBO. A great photospot, i was spending some time here shooting the biz movements, when one of the highlights of the whole trip was about to happen... as one of the new Marines Ospreys of HMX-1 landed and taxed in, right in front of the viewing area! Then three minutes later... another one... then another one! The three MV-22B's: 168292/04, 168297/05 and 168306/07 were calling in for fuel, as most of the crew then headed into Tac Air to use their facilities. HMX-1 'The Nighthawks' based at MCAF Quantico, VA is tasked with transportation of the President and other top officials, and is currently undergoing fleet modernisation. Due to receive 12 MV-22B's (as well as CH-53K's) to replace the CH-46E's and CH-53E's in the next few years, the introduction ceremony for the Ospreys was held at their home base one year to the day when seen here, with the type joining the other 'Greenside' support aircraft, which differ from the 'Whiteside' VIP choppers in not have the 'white top' colour scheme. Talk about luck, a very kind gentleman (and former KC-97 airman) from the museum, then offered to take me over to photograph them. Speaking with one of the crew, they were happy for us to stand close by, as they all then started up and departed, around an hour after arriving. Fantastic!

So, as well as some great mil, the following biz were also photographed... Gulf 4 N772AV, Learjet 60 N358JA, Cessna 550 Bravo C-FJDS of Jeffco Aviation, Cessna 560 Ultra C-FWHH of Air Partners Corp, Cessna 550 N550RT, NetJets Hawker 800XP N832QS, Gulf 200 N878DN, Cessna 560XLS+ N563WD, 1976 built Learjet 35 N354LQ, PA-46-500TP Meridian N681RV, NetJets Cessna 680 N315QS, Falcon 2000 N925AJ, Gulf 450 N718JS, Gulf 5 N885KT, Hawker 850XP N315JL, nice Falcon 900C N900KJ of Kendall Jackson Wine Estates (with a large image of a horse on the side of the fuselage), Gulf 650 N22T of Black Marlin LLC, Challenger 300 C-FLDD of LID Brokerage & Realty Co, Cessna 550 N50US, NetJets Cessna 680 N361QS, Cessna 680 N72UK, Cessna 525B N32AC, Cessna 560XL N475JC, NetJets Phenom 300 N336QS, and Cessna 525B N307PE with 'Phillips Edison & Company' tail logo.

Heading off after a great few hours at Blue Grass, the next stop was Cincinnati Northern Kentucky International, around 70 miles to the North. A major cargo hub for DHL, ABX Air and others, freighters photographed included DHL/ABX Air B767-200BDSF's N768AX, N769AX, N774AX and N786AX, Ameriflight Metro III N560UP, DHL/Atlas Air B767-200BDSF N653GT, Air Cargo Carriers SD360-100 N124CA, and ABX Air B767-200BDSF's N750AX and white N315AA. Unfortunately, a Cargojet B727-200F and B767-200BDSF couldn't be photographed, though a distant shot of classic 1958 built S-58JT N129NH of Midwest Truxton International arriving, was better than nothing. As well as these, one airliner of interest was Sunwing B737-800 C-FTDW.

Also present, on the North side, were two more freighters, one long retired and one still active. Parked up, in between flights, Southern Air B747-400BDSF N743WA is operated in basic World Airways colours without titles/logos, and had arrived on the 1st from Chicago ORD as SOO9743. Then, parked close by, was retired Airborne Express DC-9-32F N901AX. WFU here in 2005, it is still complete, though has all titles/colours (and reg) painted over. Finally, mention has to be made of another, much rarer old classic, which was present here until fairly recently. One of only three of the type present in North America, former Airborne Express Caravelle 6R N907MW was used by the Airport Fire Department for non-destructive training. Retired here in 1985, it was later painted all white, and sadly, was finally scrapped around the end of 2012. So, now down to two aircraft, one is preserved at the Pima museum, while the other is around 100 miles from here, which i hoped to see tomorrow.

Moving on, the next stop was Cincinnati Municipal, 15 miles East across the city, over the Ohio River into Ohio. The main GA airport for Cincinnati, Lunken Field has occasional biz traffic, with the following residents photographed... Ultimate Air Shuttle Do328-310JET's N407FJ and N429FJ, Learjet 35A N950SP of Jet Air, and ancient 1959 built MS760 'Paris IISP' N722Q, which was hangared. Also present were NetJets Cessna 560XL's N601QS, N605QS and N610QS, which were parked together, surrounded by cones (stored?). And that was it for the day, with the final drive on to the hotel, around 40 miles to the NE, near Wilmington Air Park.


DAY 11 MONDAY 5TH MAY

Wilmington Air Park was a major base for Airborne Express, and is still used by ABX Air after being inherited by DHL in 2003. As well as this, ATI also use the airport as their operations base, with several aircraft present and photographed first thing this morning... DC-8-72CF N721CX was one of the last ATI DC-8's in service, being finally retired in Dec 2013 and parked here. More recently, it has been registered to SkyBus Jet Cargo, and was flown to Amarillo on 15th June. SkyBus had earlier acquired a couple of former Astar Air Cargo DC-8-73CF's N807DH and N873SJ in 2013, with the latter still stored at Kingman. N807DH was then flown to Port Moresby, PNG, for operation by Transpacific Heavylift as OB-2059-P, with regular flights to Brisbane from March 2014. 'Interesting' use of the Peruvian register for this, and it will be interesting to see what happens with these other classic 'Eights acquired by the company in time. As well as N721CX, one other retired ATI DC-8 was present here today (though a bit distant for a shot), which may have been DC-8-62CF N41CX. Then, retired Capital Cargo B727-200F's present (following their merger into ATI) included N287SC, N715AA, N801EA, N815EA and two others, some with engines and other parts missing. No operational ATI B757's present this morning, there were a few B767-200BDSF's though, including N312AA (recently sold to Cargojet as C-GCJO, it was delivered to Hamilton on 1st July) and two others, along with B767-300BDSF's N319CM (looking fresh), and 'new' N365CM which still has its basic old RAM colour scheme (ex CN-ROG) with large area's in primer following it's cargo conversion (in Tel Aviv), and arrival here in Aug 2013.

Finally, two others present and photographed, were Vision Air B767-200 N768VA, which parked on the main ramp, looking a bit weathered, is presumably in storage. Infact, its last recorded flight was from Washington Dulles in Dec 2011. Then, parked on the far East ramp, one old DHL/ABX Air aircraft still remaining here, is DC-9-41F N976AX. Complete with engines, this was retired around 2010, and was registered to Mercury Aviation in July 2012. So, a fairly good visit here, managing to come away with shots of most aircraft present, it was then on to the next stop today, the world's largest military aviation museum... the National Museum of the United States Air Force, around 30 miles to the NW at Wright Field, part of the large adjoining Wright-Patterson AFB.

A 'must-do' for many enthusiasts, the NMUSAF is of course one of the best aircraft museums in the world. Period. Currently housed in three large display hangars, with aircraft from different periods on show in seperate gallerys, there are plans to construct a fourth building as part of the main complex. This will house the Presidential Aircraft Gallery, Research and Development Gallery and Global Reach Gallery. Currently the Presidential and R&D Gallerys are housed in seperate, remote buildings, which are only open on certain days, at certain times of the year, and accessed by a (first come, first served) shuttle bus from the main complex. The Global Reach Gallery will be new, made up mostly of exhibits currently on display outside at the Air Park. The common problem of keeping large aircraft well preserved outside at museums has also been an issue here, with concerns raised about the condition of some of these aircraft, which are starting to show signs of deterioration. So, the new fourth display hangar at the main complex will certainly make things a lot better and easier, when opened, which is planned for late 2015. These big changes could also be a good (and very rare) chance to catch some of the aircraft outside for much better shots, before they are moved back inside, where they will no doubt all be crammed together again! Also on this subject, if you want to come away with quality shots from a visit here, note that photography can also be very difficult due to the lighting. Infact, this place probably has the worst lighting i have seen inside a museum (even worse than the Smithsonian at Dulles), which, combined with the black walls, is apparently meant to make the displays 'more dramatic'. Whatever, i hope to return one day... with a tripod! Finally, to note, the very nice NKC-135A 55-3123 that used to be on display outside at the Air Park, and was moved over to the restricted East side of Wright Field a couple of years ago, can not be photographed (well) from anywhere around the perimeter. It 'could' be possible to arrange access over there with the museum staff (i couldn't on the day), and hopefully the reports that it may be scrapped, if a new home can't be found, don't turn out to be correct.

As for the aircraft present on display? Just like reporting on the Smithsonian, i won't even begin to try and fully list what is here, but just mention a few of the many highlights... F-22A 91-4003/FF was the third of nine F-22s built for EMD (Engineering, Manufacture and Development) testing. Assigned to the 411FLTS/412TW (ED) at Edwards AFB, after making its first flight on 6th March 2000, it was the only F-22 block 2 built. Its final flight was on 28th September 2004, when the airframe was overstressed during tests with two external tanks. Control was lost after it passed through the wake of an F-16, when the maximum permitted g-force of 7.3g was exceeded, climbing to 11.7g. Flight control software was found to be the problem, and although the aircraft landed safely, it never flew again. Arriving here in January 2007, it was restored into 1FW (Langley AFB) markings, before going on display a year later. Displayed above this, is the Boeing Bird of Prey stealth technology demonstrator, which made around 39 flights at Groom Lake between 1996-1999. Being an internal project, it was never given an X-plane designation, and was later revealed in 2002, when it was donated to the museum.

More stealth, B-2 '21000/WM' was the second static test airframe, and is marked as '509th Follow Us', 'Spirit of Freedom' on the MLG doors, with '21070' and 'Fire & Ice' on the noswheel door. In 1996, the real 82-1070 ('Spirit of Ohio') underwent six months of extreme temperature testing at the McKinley Climatic Laboratory, Eglin AFB. To signify these tests, the technicians created the artwork on the door and signed it, before presenting it to the museum in 1999 for fitting to their newly arrived test Spirit. Other 'Black Projects' include YF-117A 79-10781/ED of the 410FLTS/412TW at Edwards AFB, which was the second of five Nighthawks built for FSD (Full Scale Development) systems testing. Known as 'Scorpion 2' (later 'Toxic Death'), it arrived here ten years after its first flight on 24th september 1981. Apparently the designation YF-117A was never officially used by the USAF. Then, still the daddy, SR-71A 61-7976 of the 9SRW flew the first operational Blackbird mission on 21st March 1968, from Kadena over Vietnam. 22 years later it was the last Blackbird to fly to a museum, when arriving here from Beale AFB on 28th March 1990.

Fighter bombers include a couple with a UK connection, with F-111F 70-2390/LN 'Miss Liberty II' of the 495TFS/48TFW at RAF Lakenheath. This was restored into these markings after arriving at the museum in May 1996 in 523FS/27FW (CC) markings. The '1986' on the fin was earned for paticipation in the 'El Dorado Canyon' strike on Libya, when using callsign 'Remit 31' it was the lead aircraft for the attack on Al Azziziyah Barracks Compound on 14th April 1986. Also present is one of only a couple of 'foreign' aircraft here, Tornado GR1 ZA374/CN of 17Sq, restored into desert camo (named 'Miss Behavin'). Stationed at Dhahran Airbase duing 'Desert Storm' in 1991, it was actually marked as 'ZD374' in error, during the hasty re-painting for the Gulf War, and never corrected.

Just like with 'Enola Gay' at the Smithsonian, i'm sure a lot of people have mixed emotions when they see this next aircraft here... B-29A 44-27297 'Bockscar' of the 393BS/509CG. This was of course the aircraft that dropped the second atomic bomb ('Fat Man'), over Nagasaki on 9th August 1945. One of 15 'Silverplate' (modified for atomic weapon use) B-29's, the 'Fat Man' mission marks in black on the nose represent the four Pumpkin (non-nuclear version) bomb drops during the war, with the atomic bomb drop on Nagasaki in red... Finally for inside, a couple of the transports present include C-124C 52-1066, marked as '51-0135' of the 756MAS/909MAG at Andrews AFB, and KC-97L 52-2630 of the 145ARS/160ARG OH ANG. This was named 'Zeppelinheim' by the mayor of the town near Rhein-Main Airbase, after the unit was involved in Operation 'Creek Party'. Supported by ANG and AFRes tankers for 10 years from 1967, this aircraft was then flown to the museum in August 1976.

Moving outside, highlights at the Air Park include... EC-135E 60-0374 'The Bird of Prey' of the 452FLTS/412TW at Edwards AFB. The A/RIA (Apollo/Range Instrumentation Aircraft) mission was originally used in support of the the Apollo space program, with eight C-135's converted with a steerable seven foot antenna in the bulbous nose. Becoming operational in January 1968, the AFETR (Air Force Eastern Test Range) at Patrick AFB operated the A/RIA until the end of the Apollo program in 1972, when the USAF renamed it the ARIA (Advanced Range Instrumentation Aircraft). Transferred to the 4950TW at Wright-Patterson AFB in December 1975, the ARIA fleet was later moved to Edwards AFB to be part of the 412TW in 1994. By 2000 all but two of the fleet had been retired, with the 452nd then inactivated and this last EC-135E flown to the NMUSAF in November of that year.

C-141C 66-0177 'Hanoi Taxi' of the 445AW AFRC at Wright-Patterson AFB, was previously stationed at Norton AFB with the 63MAW. The aircraft flew the first Operation 'Homecoming' mission out of Hanoi on 12th February 1973, repatriating American POW's (including Senator John McCain) at the end of the Vietnam war. The last Starlifter to be retired from USAF, it arrived at Wright Field for the NMUSAF from adjoining Wright-Patterson AFB on 6th May 2006. During the aircraft's final PDM (Programmed Depot Maintenance) at WR-ALC in 2002, it was agreed to repaint it back into the 70's grey and white scheme (minus the red cross) to commemorate those flights, prior to retirement. Now marked 'First C-141 to Hanoi' above the crew door, with a large '4th Allied POW Wing, Return With Honour' badge next to it, many pictures and artifacts inside the aircraft are preserved, including the famous 'Hanoi Taxi' panel, signed by some of the POW's on their flights home to freedom.

Others present outside include... C-17A 87-0025/ED of the 418FLTS/412TW at Edwards AFB. Test aircraft 'T-1' was the first C-17A to fly, at Long Beach on 15th September 1991, and was later retired here on 25th April 2012. AC-130A 54-1626 of the AFSC, was the first C-130 to be converted to an AC-130 'Spectre', in 1967 at Wright-Patterson AFB. The Gunship II program followed the success of the AC-47 'Spooky' gunships (with AC-119's converted under Gunship III). Only three months after the first flight testing at Eglin AFB, the aircraft was certified ready for combat testing in Vietnam. F-15A 74-0117/FF 'Spirit of the Virginia Peninsula' was a ground instructional airframe, restored into 1FW markings at Langley AFB (as shown in the static at the last airshow there in 2011), before arriving here last year for display. Finally, showing the close proximity of Wright-Patterson AFB, C-17A 09-9205 of 437AW 'Charleston' was photographed over the NMUSAF on final approach to runway 05L there. An amazing museum that i hope to return to, maybe next year... some 'unfinished business' here!

Heading off, the next stop was Rickenbacker International, around 65 miles to the East. Well known as the former Rickenbacker AFB, the base was recommended for closure by the 1991 Base Realignment and Closure Commission. However, it was then decided to retain the 121ARW OH ANG in their seperate ANGB area of the now civilian-operated airport (instead of moving the unit's KC-135's to Wright-Patterson AFB). Since this change, the airport has been developed into a busy cargo hub, with FedEx, UPS, Atlas Air, Kalitta, Cargolux and Cathay Pacific among those operating here. As well as these, AirNet Systems are based here, providing a small package feeder service, using their Learjet 35, Cessna 208, Navajo and Baron fleet. As reported on at Spirit of St Louis Airport a few days ago, most of their Learjets seem to park there, so just Cessna 208B N107AN and Pa-31-350(F)'s N711LH, N3590D and N4079Y were photographed here this afternoon. No shots of the couple of FedEx aircraft present or resident KC-135's today, though i was more than happy to leave with what i had really come to catch... some classic old propliners...

Air Tahoma were another company who's main business was providing a parcel feeder service, including contracts with DHL and FedEx, using a fleet of Convair propliner freighters. Based here, they were grounded by the FAA in January 2009 for a history of safety violations, four months after another fatal crash (involving Convair 580F N587X, which came down shortly after take off here). Planning this trip, i could see quite a few Convairs still present on the latest Google Earth image, although this was several years old. Also, with very few (and no recent) photographs or reports of the aircraft here, i was still unsure of what i would actually find upon arriving. As well as this, i was also unsure about getting anywhere near the aircraft, with the access road next to the ANGB possibly not for public use? 'Some you win' though, with this old deserted area of the airport still accessible, enabling shots of most of the remaining Convairs, with 4 complete airframes and 2 'front ends' on for shots...

Aircraft present included complete Convair 580F's N582P (red and turquoise stripes), all white N585P, another all white with no reg, and EC-GSJ still in full DHL colours. Of these, N582P may be in Air Tahoma 'colours' (same colour stripes as the company logo)? All were complete apart from the missing engines, while EC-GSJ was also missing the nose cone and rudder among other parts. This was obviously just acquired for parts, and is infact registered as N590X (although not worn). Then, front sections (cut at the trailing edge of the wings) included a Convair 240 (C-131A) with red and blue stripes, thought to be N882P, and a Convair 580F still in Renown Aviation colours. Another similar front section was also present, with one of these believed to be N73104. Also, behind these, were three more unidentified all white examples, as well as the seperate front and rear sections of Convair 240 (VT-29B) N156PA, which is in the same scheme as N882P. Great to see all these survive and to get some shots, although even though some still appear to be 'recoverable', no doubt its just a matter of time...

Finally here, a nice surprise, parked nearby next to the AirNet ramp, was C-130E N307SA of Snow Aviation International. Interesting story behind this 1962 built former WC-130E (61-2365), which was later operated by Evergreen as N131EV. Acquired by Snow Aviation in 2005 as a testbed for a proposed 'C-130M' upgrade for existing older-generation Herk operators, it was fitted with eight-bladed NP2000 propellers (as used on the upgraded E-2C Hawkeye 2000) and Snow-designed 512 gallon tip tanks. As well as these, other J-spec upgrades would include a glass cockpit, new engines and a fuselage extension. After three years of testing, which demonstrated very impressive performance improvements, the company was still awaiting orders... which never came. Now parked up for several years, the original props have been re-fitted, and the tip-tanks removed. Bit of a shame.

Moving on, the next stop was Columbus International, around 15 miles to the North. The main airport for Ohio's capital city, there was just one, very important reason i was visiting here... Caravelle 6R N901MW. Another surviving, former Airborne Express aircraft, it is used by the Rural/Metro Fire Dept here for non-destructive training, located outside their facility at the East side of the airport. Previously under the care of the Ohio History of Flight Museum (until their closure), it is still complete apart from the missing nose cone, and retains the Airborne Express tail stripe, though the titles (and reg) on the fuselage have been painted over. Asking at the fire dept, i was fortunate to be taken out to photograph the aircraft, as well as look inside, where the cockpit is still complete, and the cabin is fitted with around 15 double-seats taken from a school bus (for training). As mentioned earlier, this is now one of only two Caravelles remaining in North America, after N907MW was scrapped at Cincinnati a few years ago. Infact, going back to 2010, there were two more in the States, which were then also scrapped that year, N98KT at Van Nuys, and another former Airborne Express example, N902MW at Bradley, CT. So, having only photographed one of these aircraft (N98KT) before they were scrapped, at least this surviving classic can still be seen... for now. Not expecting much more of interest here, there was one more shot before leaving, of a line-up of wfu Jungle Jets, still in Continental Express colours. A total of nine ERJ-145LR's of Chautauqua Airlines were parked on the South side, including N279SK. As well as these, apparently the airline will cease all ERJ-145 flying this year (operating for American and Delta), with the ERJ-175 operated by other subsidiaries taking over.

Heading off, the final drive today was on to Toledo Express, around 125 miles to the North. Making it before sundown, there was time for a few final shots of the day, before heading to the airport hotel. One aircraft of interest, which i knew was present, was former DHL/SNAS Aviation B727-200F HZ-SND. This was the final DHL B727 in service in Bahrain, and after being sold in the US, flew to Dublin on 1st April for repaint all white. It was then flown to Gander on 8th April, and on to here, where it remains parked, with the temporary Saudi reg now removed. Reportedly to be operated by Sierra West Airlines as N209TR, it was registered to based Career Aviation on 16th May. As well as this, others present operated by Career Aviation included old Learjet 35A N242DR, very old 1967 built Falcon 20C N283SA and Metroliner III N63NE. Another, very nice Metro III present, was former Aeronaves/Vigo Jet XA-UAL, parked at the very NE corner of the airfield, with engines removed. Finally, parked at the opposite NW side, ancient 1963 built Sabreliner 40 N408TR is used by the TPS (Toledo Public Schools) Aviation Technician Program as an instructional airframe. Complete, apart from the missing tailerons, its last recorded flight was from New London, CT in 2003, and now has the school logos applied with 'Where Your Future Takes Flight'. Alongside was even older, 1955 built Aztec N727JJ, which was donated to the school in 2005.


DAY 12 TUESDAY 6TH MAY

The day started with more shots of some of the same aircraft in the morning sunlight, before heading off, continuing North to Detroit Willow Run, around 50 miles up the road. Really looking forward to this, only my second visit to this place, which is still a fantastic airport for vintage stuff, being packed with classics. And unlike six years ago, the weather was perfect! Of the aircraft present, the highlight has to be the pocket-rocket DC-9's and B727 freighters of USA Jet and Kalitta Charters II. As well as these Ameristar and Skyway Enterprises DC-9's also operate from here, with USA Jet also having MD-80's, while Kalitta Charters operate old cargo Falcon 20's and Learjet's. Thankfully, photography is quite easy, along the fence overlooking the USA Jet ramp and FBO/Museum aircraft on the East side, and most of the two main ramps on the West side, overlooking the Kalitta ramp and GA/museum ramp/hangars further around.

Starting with USA Jet, more of the older DC-9's are being retired, some already for several years, with the company maybe looking at the MD-80 for their main future fleet. Photographed today were... the oldest 'Nine in the fleet, DC-9-15 N191US, which was the 17th off the line in 1966 as KLM's PH-DNA. Last used for exec/company charters, it is painted in the latest scheme, though is now wfu with engines removed. In addition, other short DC-9-15RC's present, were N192US and N196US both in the old colours, and N195US in the latest colours. All still active, unlike N194US, which is in the old scheme, and is now retired with engines and other parts missing. Then, of the 'Thirties, DC-9-32F N208US was in the old colours, still complete, DC-9-32 N215US was white with titles, and has engines missing, DC-9-33F N327US was in the old colours, still complete, and DC-9-34 N934US was all white, with engines removed.

Great to photograph all these, the most interesting though, was DC-9-32F N207US, which was reported to be wfu in 2006 and used for parts. However, it was good to see it still has some life left in it! Still in the old scheme, now with the titles painted over, it was recently sold for operation in Mexico by Aeronaves TSM, being registered to Frontera Flight Holdings on 13th May. Based at Saltillo, Aeronaves operate for DHL, and have a fleet of Metro's, Convair's and DC-9's, with some ex American MD-83(SF)'s apparently on order. Being prepared for engine runs today, it was unusual to see the engine cowlings marked as '3D-GAC'. These were from N934US (see earlier), which was previously registered to Global Aviation (a South African company) as 3D-GAC for a short time while in the USA (and delivered here in 2008). The following day, the Swazi reg was then painted over using an aerosol can, with the aircraft later departing to Laredo and on to Saltillo on 14th May. So, as another DC-9 leaves the active fleet, two of the next generation were present, with MD-83(SF) N831US being active and looking fresh in the latest colours, after freighter conversion last year (this is the former Spanair EC-GGV), while former Alaska Airlines MD-83 N948AS is currently stored all white, and complete. Finally, also on their ramp was Falcon 20F N877JG (registered to GHS Liner LLC), which appeared to be wfu, as was Learjet 25B N165AA. Still registered to USA Jet, it's reg had just expired a week ago, after possibly being retired here in Oct 2010.

Completing the aircraft on the East side, movements at the FBO ramp included Hawker 400XP N449TM of Travel Management Co (TMC449), Beech 350i N350TT with a Triangle Tool Corp logo on the fin, and S-76B N176BA of Spectrum Health Hospitals 'Aero Med'. Another chopper seen from here, on finals for the West side, which unfortunately didn't stay long, was 1962 built S-58T N58S of McMahon Helicopter Services. Only a distant shot for the record of this classic, which is based at nearby Canton Airport (ten miles to the NE of here). Then, parked at the end of the FBO ramp, close to the museum aircraft, was another classic, very nice 1969 built Sabreliner 60 N15HF previously of Williams International Co. Used as a testbed for the Williams FJ22 engine (as used on the original Eclipse 500), it features a large pylon mount on the upper rear fuselage, just in front of the fin on the left side. After being retired, its thought its final flight was from its Oakland County base on 29th September 2008, after being donated to the MIAT (Michigan Institute of Aviation Technology) for use as an instructional airframe at their facility here. In 2009, the Yankee Air Museum purchased the MIAT building (with N15HF remaining here), while the college established themselves at a facility at Canton Airport. Still parked here, next to the main Yankee Air Museum parking area, it is thought to be for future display? Also parked nearby (similarly for display?) was more classic biz, with 1984 built Gulfstream 2 N559L, registered to pizza people Little Caesar Enterprises. Now wfu after the reg expired at the end of 2011, the aircraft has a bit of interesting history... Back in April 1983 when XA-FOU of Jet Ejecutivos-Televisa, it was on approach to Shannon, when the airport was declared closed, due to fog. After a missed approach, Captain Rueben Ocana informed the tower they didn't have the fuel to make it to their alternate, Cork Airport. Given directions by road, a successful emergency landing was then made at Mallows Racecourse (now known as Cork Racecourse). With no damage to the aircraft, Lloyds of London then paid (around £150,000) for a temporary 3,000 foot runway to be constructed, with the aircraft departing five weeks later. Captain Ocana was a retired Aeromexico pilot, and received awards from Gulfstream for this, as well as being invited back to Mallows to be an honorary judge at horseshows there!

Check out the video... http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=w1AVTVegjkI

Back in October 2004, a huge fire at the Yankee Air Museum's site on this NE side of the airfield, saw the historic hangar burned to the ground. Some of the aircraft were saved, but others including the prototype YOV-10A Bronco were destroyed. Since then, the remaining static museum aircraft have remained outside here, while the airworthy B-17G, B-25D and C-47D have been kept in a hangar on the NW side. Again though, the common problem of keeping large aircraft well preserved outside at museums has also been an issue here, with some of the staic aircraft now in poor shape, almost ten years since the fire. Worse still, two aircraft in particular were apparently in such poor condition, with severe corrosion, that it was decided to scrap them, just over a year ago. Former Zantop DC-6BF N4913R, which was taken on by the museum around January 1993, and very sadly, the prototype Argosy 101 N896U, were both broken up last year, with the Argosy on 4th March, and the DC-6 two days later. Donated in December 1991 by Duncan Aviation, after operating in the US for over 30 years, unfortunately, being a little-known 'obscure' British type here, N896U was vunerable to long term funding priorities, decided by the museum. Not being the typical 'glamorous' warbird that get most attention and funding there, when tough financial decisions had to be made, it was inevitable what was going to happen. Yet another unique classic gone. So today, just a couple of shots of the museum aircraft here, including early DHC-4A N6080 which is (falsely) painted as US Army 62-4171. The second prototype, it is ironically one of the few Caribous which never saw any military service, and was last operated by ERIM (Environmental Research Institute of Michigan) here from 1977 until the mid 1990's. A shame it couldn't be displayed as the aircraft that was based here for so long. Much more interesting that just yet another 'Army C-7', but again, seemingly more like what the average punter wants to see. Also, now parked at the museum's main building (the old MIAT facility) a few hundred yards away, three aircraft outside on the car park, were USAF NF-101B Voodoo 56-0235, wingless T-33A 58-0492 (with a HQ Command badge on the fin) as well as unmarked PZL-built An-2 N75AN. Previously HR-ARR painted in an orange scheme, this was based at Ray Community Airport (around 50 miles to the NE), where it was apparently used for skydiving etc, before arriving here about five years ago. Again though, what would the 'average Joe' find more interesting, an unusual authentic Honduran aircraft, or one painted overall dark green with a Soviet star on? Yep, the dumbed-down scheme was applied in late 2011! Finally, the museum's F-4C 63-7555 was pulled inside here at the end of 2012 for a re-paint, to be part of the Vietnam War feature, along with their Huey and Skymaster.

Obviously, the museum is a major 'work in progress', with big news in June of the purchase agreement finally being signed for a part of the historic Willow Run Bomber Plant. Following an $8 Million fund raising effort, the 'Save The Bomber Plant' campaign to acquire a 175,000 square foot part of the factory, will see the building renovated as the musum's future home. Originally built as part of the plant designed by Henry Ford to produce B-24 Liberators for the WWII effort, known as the 'Arsenal of Democracy', the rest of the plant is being demolished, with the site then planned to be developed into an advanced vehicle research centre. As mentioned, the museum's airworthy aircraft now live in a hangar on this NW side, just South of the future home. Also visited, all three were present, with USAF C-47D N8704/44-76176 'Yankee Doodle Dandy' (another former ERIM aircraft) outside, and B-17G N3193G/44-85829 'Yankee Lady' and B-25D N3774/43-3634 'Yankee Warrior' both inside today.

Then, while on this ramp, some other nice shots, included L-188AF Electra N286F. Now registered to Rockland Aerospace, it still has Zantop titles, and is one of a few still present here. Being worked on, it presumably has more life left in it, and may follow others from here that have gone to Canada? Time will tell, but looking good outside today, complete with engine cowlings open, it was back inside the hangar on the follow up visit tomorrow. As well as this, a couple of others (too far away for shots) included L-188AF N346HA, which is also registered to Rockland Aerospace. Then, another 'survivor' here, is Jetstream 31 N339TE, still in full TWA Express colours (as operated by Trans States Airlines). Retired at Kingman, it was later acquired by Murray Air here for parts, and now has engines and other parts removed. One nice biz-jet photographed on this ramp today was Gulfstream 5SP N363MF of Harland Clarke Aviation, while one more classic present, was Ameristar DC-9-15C N785TW, which is still operational here.

As if all of this so far wasn't enough, there was still one more area to visit... the Kalitta Charters ramp. Present today were nice Kalitta Charters II B727-200F's N720CK (named 'Freddy') and N724CK, along with DC-9-15F N917CK. One more pocket rocket 'Nine, this was last photographed on finals at Whiteman AFB in 2011, when operated by Ross Aviation/US Department of Energy as N166DE, shortly before being sold. As well as these, 1968 built Falcon 20C N70CK of Kalitta Charters (with a cover over the nose) and Learjet 35A N325NW of Golden Flight II Enterprises (cargo?) were also photographed. Then, a bunch of old retired Kalitta Charters Falcon 20's and Learjets parked nearby, included two 1968 built Learjet 25's N39CK and N76CK, along with 1978 built Learjet 25D N248CK. Finally, parked on the far side of this ramp, was all white DC-8-63CF N865F. Resident here since 2000 with Murray Air and National Airlines, it was registered to Global Aviation Leasing (Arizona) in Aug 2013. With the large National Airlines titles/logo on the nose now painted over, it is said to be worked on and run-up occasionally, so hopefully there is more life left in this classic. And that was it for here, on this fantastic day for old classics... with a lot more to come!...

Around 155 miles North of here, Oscoda-Wurtsmith Airport is dominated by Kalitta Air, who have their main base here, with a busy maintenance facility and many aircraft parked up, this place is well worth the effort to visit. The last long leg of driving on this trip, up here and back to Detroit on the same day, i was fortunate to have been able to arrange access to photograph everything present outside. Lucky with the weather as well, which was glorious, as the drive up the coast took me through the beach resorts along Lake Huron. The former Wurtsmith AFB, until closed as such in 1993, it was once a dispersal base for nuclear armed B-52's during the Cold War, with the old 'christmas tree' alert ramps still evident on the old facility on the North side. Today, a good collection of classics live here... some are operational, or will fly again, though most won't...

Starting with Kalitta Air, and their fleet of B747's, the following were present (all with engines removed, and in full colours, unless stated)... B747-100(SF) N709CK (wfu Aug 2010), the only 100 series present, this appeared to be next on death row, alongside a few very small parts of another, totally broken up (and unidentified!). B747-200F's... N700CK (wfu June 2012), N701CK (wfu Oct 2012), N703CK (wfu Feb 2013, named 'Kirt Franklin 1'), N705CK (wfu Dec 2008), N707CK (wfu Jan 2011), N715CK (complete and still in service, present receiving minor maintenance outside), N747CK (wfu March 2012), N748CK (wfu Dec 2013), N790CK (wfu Aug 2012), N791CK (wfu Dec 2012) and N792CK (wfu Dec 2013), the last three being all white with titles.

Three former Japanese aircraft present, were... B747-200B N727CK still in JALways 'Res'ocha' colours (ex JA8149). Acquired by Kalitta Air and ferried here in Dec 2003 for parts, it was then kept and put into use as a static airframe for testing of engines (removed from retired B747's etc), and has 'Aircraft Test Facility' titles applied. During this visit, there was an engine attached in the number one position. Then, all white B747-300 N768CK is ex JAL (JA8185) and was retired at Victorville in Mar 2009. Then acquired by Kalitta Air and ferried here Nov 2009 for parts, it has an odd fin cap fitted, with a red stripe marked 'BER'. Also, all white B747-400 N767CK is ex JAL (JA8080) and was retired at Victorville in Feb 2010, before similarly being acquired by Kalitta Air and ferried here in May 2010 for parts.

Other 'foreign' acquisitions for parts use, included B747-400(M) N769CK still in full Lufthansa colours (ex D-ABTE). This was retired in Aug 2012 and ferried here in May 2013. Then, two former Macedonian aircraft, were all white B747-200F N110TR ex Star Airlines (Z3-CAC), which was acquired by Kalitta Air and ferried here in Feb 2011, and B747-200(SF) N923FT still in full Star Airlines colours (ex Z3-CAA), which was acquired by Kalitta Air and ferried here in Oct 2010. Finally for the Lumps, three more from different US airlines... two former Northwest Cargo B747-200F's N624US and N629US, both still in full colours, were acquired by Kalitta Air for parts, and ferried here from Marana in Aug and Oct 2010 respectively, while B747-200(SF) N488EV of Evergreen International, which was retired here in June 2012, still has the number 1 and 2 engines fitted (wrapped up).

On to the classic tri-jets, two exec B727-100's present were... former Roush Air N502MG, still in 'Roush Fenway Racing' (NASCAR team) colours. Retired here in Dec 2007, now with engines removed, it is parked outside the small Yankee Air Force Museum (Wurtsmith Division), and said to be under their care. Then, N706JP was registered to Kalitta Equipment, and flown here from Mena, AR in January of this year. As reported on in the USA April-May 2013 report, it was for sale with Dodson Services there, and still carries the colours of previous owner ‘Petters Group Worlwide’.

Onto B727-200's present, the following were all registered to Kalitta Charters II... retired B727-200F N723CK is in the old Kalitta Charters II colours. Now with engines and other parts missing, it was wfu at Willow Run at the end of 2012 before being ferried here in early 2013. Then, active B727-200F(WL) N729CK was complete and looking fresh. This was previously N751DH of DHL/Astar Air Cargo, and was ferried here from Kingman in Aug 2012, before going into service (the only one in the fleet fitted with winglets). Similar B727-200F N752DH is also ex DHL/Astar Air Cargo, though is no longer active. Retired at Kingman in May 2009, it was then ferried here in Jan 2013 for parts, and is now parked with engines removed. Another, long term 'survivor' here, is former American Airlines B727-200 N866AA, which still exists, in basic AA colours. Now with engines and other parts missing, it was retired in April 2002 at Mojave, before being ferried here seven months later. Also, B727-200(RE) N728CK is registered to Kalitta Equipment, and is all white and complete (with engines fitted). Former Nomads N727M, it arrived here from Marana in 2012, and was reportedly operated for the FBI at Richmond, VA in 2012-2013, before being wfu here, with engines removed late last year. Now re-fitted, confirmation is needed that the aircraft is active again (or soon will be)?

Finally, another classic, short DC-9 today... DC-9-15RC N229DE of Ameristar Jet Charter. Previously stored at Ameristar's Dallas Addison base, this is now parked here, complete with engines. As with N917CK at Willow Run, this was another operated by Ross Aviation for the US Department of Energy, before going to Ameristar in 2011. At the moment, its status here is not confirmed (retired?). So, a total of 21 B747's, 7 B727's and 1 DC-9, all photographed in great weather, was certainly worth the long drive, as i headed off back South. The hotel tonight was at Oakland County Airport, to the NE of Detroit, with the 165 mile drive passing right past one airport en route, worth a quick look at. Bishop International at Flint, to the NE of Detroit, is actually just a regional airport, with a few services by the regular carriers. One shot, was of FedEx A300B4-622F N746FD, day-stopping on the Memphis service. So, on to Oakland County, where there was still time for a quick look around before dark... one shot was of nice Falcon 7X I-AFIT of Eurofly Service.


DAY 13 WEDNESDAY 7TH MAY

After being spoiled by mostly great weather so far, a change was long overdue! Waking to a heavy downpour, that was to last for a couple of hours, this led to a re-think of todays plans. After shooting what was possible here first thing, i then had an arrangement to visit the museum at Selfridge AFB (30 miles across the city), where access is only through prior contact. So, cancelling that (try again another time), it was just another look around here, when the rain eased off, before a return visit to Willow Run. With a flight out of Detroit Metro in the early evening, today was another chance to catch more classics in the Detroit area, with maybe time for one more later...

Another Detroit airport with it's fair share of classics present, Oakland County International (previously known as Oakland-Pontiac), is the home base for IFL Group/Contract Air Cargo. With it's fleet of Convairs, Falcon 20's and more recently B727's, they are probably mostly seen at Miami, where the Convairs are fairly busy. As well as the flights to the Caribbean area, their main business is moving cargo for the automotive industry (hence the 'Trans-Auto' callsign). Unfortunately, access requests here were denied, so shots from outside included B727-200F(WL) N251FL, stretched Convair 5800 N361FL and Falcon 20C-5's N531FL and N541FL. As well as the active aircraft, also registered to IFL and present on their ramp, were three retired Convairs, used for parts... Convair 580 N51211 was acquired in 2011 and now has it's engines removed. Last operated by ERIM and General Dynamics as a test aircraft at Willow Run, its special external fairings etc have also been removed. Then, two piston engined Convairs remain fairly intact, with C-131B (CV340) N7813B retired around 2007, and C-131F (CV440) N8149P arriving in April 2011, after being retired from the BCMC (Beaufort County Mosquito Control). Also here, the remains of a few old IFL Group/Grand Aire Express Falcon 20's are dumped at the rear of the hangar, with Falcon 20EW N510BM (former Portuguese AF 17102) and very old 1965 built N611GA among other bits and pieces.

A nice collection of classics, that doesn't end there at Oakland, with more classic biz at the NE corner of the airfield, around the Royal Air ramps. Quite a few old Falcon 20's and Learjets of Royal Air Freight present, included 1974 built Falcon 20E N20WK, 1966 built Falcon 20C N123RA, 1972 built Falcon 20F N224WE and 1977 built Falcon 20F N766RA. Most of these may still be active, unlike very old 1965 built Falcon 20C N277RA, which is wfu with engines removed. Then, a couple of the Learjet 35A's also photographed, included N351AS and N841TF. Finally, around the Pontiac Air Center ramps along the East side, a couple of nice Sabreliner 75A's were parked up, both for sale. N400RS of R2D2 LLC is in a nice blue and white scheme, while N933JC of Flight 180 LLC is a bit special in being the last Sabreliner built. Originally delivered to Saudi Oger Ltd as HZ-SOG in 1979, it's last recorded flight was from Teterboro in Jan 2009, with the reg expired at the end of Dec 2013. Finally, before heading off, one movement caught, was departing Gulfstream 3 N818VB of the Living Word Christian Center, which is based at Chicago Midway.

So on to Willow Run, where on arriving i could see a Learjet downwind, so headed straight to a spot to photograph it landing. 1977 built Learjet 36A N71CK of Kalitta Charters, was then followed in by Kalitta Charters II DC-9-15RC N915CK. Great to shoot some of this stuff in the air as well, it was then over to the Kalitta ramp to catch the 'Nine taxying in. As well as these, others there different from yesterday, included Kalitta Charters 1974 built Learjet 25B N150CK and 1967 built Falcon 20D N808CK (with a cover over the nose). Then, a look around the other ramps had a few more things different from yesterday... at USA Jet, their hangar was open, revealing another retired 'Nine... DC-9-31 N231US in the latest colours. With engines and nose cone removed, it seemed otherwise complete (possibly to be sold?). Then, out on the ramp, new was DC-9-32CF N205US, also in the latest scheme, which was out yesterday, and departed again today. Also new today, was Skyway Enterprises DC-9-15F N112PS, as seen earlier in the trip (at Arlington Municipal).

Completing the aircraft on the East side, movements at the FBO ramp included nice Gulf 5SP N315RG of Renair Corp, NetJets Cessna 560 Encore N825QS, nice Aeronaves TSM Metroliner III XA-EGC (presumably connected with the DC-9?), and welcome US Army C-12U 84-24376 of OSACOM, which featured a 'Michigan' map logo on the nose (so no longer IN ArNG). Finally, a look at the ramps on the NW side, where as well as Ameristar DC-9-15C N785TW still present, company Falcon 20DC N699TW was also parked up, while one biz movement was Cessna 560 Encore N911UM of the University of Michigan Health System 'Survival Flight'. A really big surprise though, was former Aero Union P-3A N922AU 'Tanker 22', parked outside the hangar where L-188AF N286F was being worked on (see yesterday). This could now explain why N286F was outside... because N922AU was inside, unknown to me, behind the door closed! When told it had arrived 'a week ago', it did indeed, being recorded as arriving on 28th April from McClellan, CA. Still in full colours, this was one of seven wfu there, since Aero Union ceased operations in 2011, after the USFS (US Forest Service) cancelled its contract with the company over safety issues. Now acquired by Buffalo Airways, it will be the first Orion in their fleet, which along with their 'new' Electras, could soon start replacing the current piston engined DC-4's in the airtanker role.

Finally for here, a photoshoot was taking place today, with resident Yankee Air Force C-47D N8704/44-76176 'Yankee Doodle Dandy' and WWII veteran, Donald R Burgett. Prior to undertaking a trip back to Normandy for the 70th anniversary of the D-Day landings, a French magazine was doing a feature on the 89 year old local of Michigan. His distinguished service included being among the first Airborne troopers who landed in Normandy early on the morning of D-Day, with his decorations including a Bronze Star and Purple Heart with two Oak Leaf Clusters. The author of four books, he has also done a number of History Channel specials on WWII. Having the chance to meet him shortly after, was a privalege.

Now, with a bit of rain in the air, and still with a bit of time before i needed to head to Metro for the flight out, it was a good time to take in one more little visit i had hoped to fit in. 15 miles to the East of here, in town, the Henry Ford Museum has a few vintage aircraft on display, with one i wanted to catch. Located next to the old Ford Airport (now the Ford Dearborn Development Center and test track), highlight in the Heroes of the Sky exhibit is very nice DC-3-201B N21728 painted in Northwest Airlines colours. A bit special this one, 'Old 728' was at one time the highest time aircraft in history, having logged 84,875 hours (and zero mishaps) before its retirement and donation to the museum in May 1975. Only having two operators since new, it started life with Eastern Airlines in April 1939 before going to North Central Airlines at the end of 1952, where it flew scheduled services until 1965, before use as a VIP aircraft until 1975. As they say, 'only a DC-3 could replace a DC-3', and the same goes for the record, which was taken on by PBA's N136PB in 1981. Restored into Eastern colours as N18121, it now has around 92,000 hours on the clock! As well as the Dak, one more aircraft of interest here is 1928 built Ford Trimotor NX4542. More history here... marked as 'Byrd Antarctic Expedition', it was the first aircraft to fly over the South Pole, led by Admiral Richard Byrd in November 1929.

And that was it for the States, as i returned the rental at nearby Detroit Metro and checked in for Delta/ExpressJet Airlines to Toronto. DL5546 was operated by CRJ-700 N752EV, off at 1955 for the 1 hour flight. Just the two days in Canada to finish off the trip, and after collecting the rental, it was straight off to the hotel at Hamilton Airport, around 40 miles to the SW, the well known home of... you guessed it, more classics...


DAY 14 THURSDAY 8TH MAY

Hamilton International is of course primarily a cargo airport, being a bit too far from Toronto to offer many passenger services. In addition to a few seasonal charter flights, Westjet have the most services here. Of the cargo operators, Cargojet and Kelowna Flightcraft/Purolator Courier are the big players here, both having bases/hubs at the airport. For now, one of the best airports in North America to see operational B727F's, with both companies still operating a good amount of these, Kelowna also operate a few DC-10 freighters here, while Cargojet have been adding B757 and B767 freighters to their fleet, which will start to replace the tri-jets over time. As well as these, DHL and FedEx can also be seen here, while cargo feeder services are flown by Castle Aviation and SkyLink Express, mostly using Cessna Caravans. Of course, being cargo flights, a lot of these can operate in the evening or early morning, with long periods of quiet during the day here. As it was, on checking the schedules, the first movement in daylight today, was one of the few Kelowna DC-10 flights, with an inbound on the Vancouver run for Canada Post as KFA310, due in at 0600. Sunrise time... 0600!

With landings from the West today, onto runway 12, the best photospots for runway shots are near the touchdown end there. So, straight there to catch the dawn arrival, DC-10-30F C-GKFT touched down bang on time at 0600. With a couple more movements of interest within the next hour, i then hung around to catch DHL/Atlas Air B767-200BDSF N653GT inbound from Cincinnati as GTI915, and Cargojet B767-200BDSF C-FMCJ departing to Ottawa as CJT1574. Back to the hotel to check out, there was a bit of time before the next movements of interest, so then called in to photograph what was parked up around the ramps. These included Cargojet B727-200F's C-FCJU and C-FCJV, Kelowna B727-200F's C-GNKF and C-GTKF in the latest colours, and C-GXKF in the old colours. Two more Kelowna DC-10-30F's present were C-GKFA and C-GKFB (the old BCal/BA G-BEBM and G-BEBL), with the former retired for a while now, after the engines were removed. Also, another 'Kelowna' B727, former executive B727-100RE(WL) VP-BAJ arrived in Oct 2009, and was donated to the Mohawk College here for use as an instructional airframe. Now with engines removed and painted all white (no reg), it has various stickers applied, including 'Donated by Kelowna Flightcraft' on the fin.

As well as these, a couple of biz present were Cessna 550 C-FKLB of the Canadian Department of Transport, and nice 1973 built Gulf 2SP N400M of BMG Group (with a stylised 'DGI' on the fin). Also, having previously visited the Canadian Warplane Heritage Museum here, i didn't return on this occasion, though a few of their aircraft were outside on the ramp, so still managed a few shots. Now, with a few more inbounds expected, i headed back to the runway 12 photospot, to catch Cargojet B727-200F C-GUJC as CJT580 from Calgary, and Kelowna/Purolator B727-200F C-GKFJ as KFA272 from Edmonton on finals. Great to shoot one of each in the air as well, there was now a long quieter period expected, with nothing much of interest until the afternoon, so decided to head off.

Now, with the other main airports of interest i wanted to take in while here, to the East passed Toronto YYZ, i then decided on spending some time here, before continuing on to Oshawa, where tonights hotel was. First, stopping by the main FBO and FedEx ramps on the NW side, the following were photographed... Learjet 36A C-FEMT, Learjet 45 N245CM, CL605 N520SC, CL605 C-GHMW and CL850 C-GSLL both of Image Air, CL604's C-GBBB and C-GFLU and Global Express 5000 C-GJCB all of Chartright Air, Falcon 2000 C-FWTF of NovaJet, Hawker 800XP N6NR of Rockwell Automation Inc, Falcon 2000EX N669HP, and Falcon 10 C-FFEV of Air Nunavut, as well as FedEx MD-10-30F N320FE and B757-200(SF) C-FMEP (operated by Morningstar Air Express), and Air Transat A310-300 C-GTSH and A330-200 C-GITS. This is the 'infamous' 330 that ran out of fuel and just made it to Lajes in 2001. With most landings from the SW today, onto runway 05, photospots at this end are not the best, but after finding somewhere, then managed a couple of hours of 'excitement', with 'highlights'... Air Canada Express/Air Georgian Beech 1900D C-GAAV, Air France B777-200ER F-GSPZ, Air Transat A310-300 C-GFAT, Air Canada 'Star Alliance' A320 C-FDRH, nice all silver/black Challenger 300 C-GFCB of Execair, and BAe125-700A C-GSQC of NovaJet. Not much going on, so heading off, another look at the FBO ramps, provided... Falcon 2000EX N925BC, Hawker 800XP N415JA, Gulf 4SP N857ST of the Seminole Tribe of Florida, Falcon 900EX N7600S, and classic Westwind 1124 N33TW of W&A Aviation.

From here, Oshawa is around 45 miles along the coast to the East. Getting to the airport before sundown, some vintage stuff present was resident PZL An-2P C-GFBR and long-term inmate Beech E18S C-FCLO registered to Enterprise Air, which is bare metal and complete, apart from missing front engine cowlings. Then, as well as Terraquest Beech C90 C-GCFZ (still in the colours of the Canadian Department of Transport), more classics photographed were a couple of Falcon 10's at this (second) base for Air Nunavut. With C-FFEV just seen at YYZ, their other aircraft, C-FZOP was here, along with N724AS which was acquired for parts. This arrived in October 2011 and is now parked engineless (so no reg carried).


DAY 15 FRIDAY 9TH MAY

The final day of the trip, and straight back to Oshawa Airport for another quick look. More shots of the same, plus another Falcon 10 now present, with even older 1974 built C-GRBP of ALCI Aviation, which is also based here. From here, todays plan, was on to Peterborough, then Trenton, before back to Toronto YYZ in plenty of time for the flight out later. Peterborough is around 35 miles to the NE, and well worth a visit being the base for the Flying Colours Corp. The MRO and aircraft completions specialists, mainly carry out work on Bombardier/Canadair aircraft, with a very nice selection present outside today. These included two for the Chinese AF (PLAAF), with CRJ-702's B-4661 (ex C-GIAE) painted up with blue stripes, as well as C-GWFU painted with red and blue stripes (both with the Chinese flag on the fin covered over). The former is presumably destined for the 100th Air Transport Regiment (which operates the type at Beijing-Xijiao), while the latter has the same scheme as the 102nd Air Regiment B737's and Tu-154's at Beijing-Nan Yuan. Then, others parked around their ramps included two CRJ-200's painted in full Berjaya Air colours, 9M-CRC and 9M-CRD, and two CRJ-200's painted in full RwandAir colours, C-GSBX and one with no reg (C-GSBX then flew to Sault Ste. Marie in Ontario on 11th June). Also, as well as nice CL604 B-7766 of Lily Jet, and another CRJ (or CL850?) painted silver with a green belly and fin with yellow stripes (but no reg), there were another four unidentified all white CRJ's. Finally, as well as Air Nunavut Falcon 10 C-FFEV being present (seen at YYZ yesterday), parked in the distance were a bare metal Dak with a couple of old Beech 99's, all engineless and obviously retired. Too distant for shots, one of the 99's was in Bar Harbour Airlines colours, while the Dak is DC-3C ex C-GJDM (which was last operated by Airtech until cancelled in 1993).

So on to CFB Trenton, around 40 miles East back towards the coast, the National Air Force Museum of Canada is located here, on the West side of the base. Impressive place with one star exhibit that i was yet to see and photograph, for them, their pride and joy is obviously unique RAF Halifax A7 NA337/2-PX of 644Sq which has centre place inside here. Based at RAF Tarrant Rushton (Dorset), it was shot down and ditched into Lake Mjosa, Norway on 24th April 1945, where it lay for 50 years, until raised by the Halifax Aircraft Association and fully restored here by 2006. The only authentic restored Halifax in existence (from over 6,000 built), it really is in amazing condition now. As well as this, another WWII veteran on display, is RCAF CC-129 (C-47A) 12963/FZ658/P of 436Sq 'Canucks Unlimited', which is restored into WWII SE Asia Command markings.

More modern stuff, to mention just a few highlights, include RCAF CP-107 Argus 2 10732 of 415(MP)Sq at CFB Summerside. Retired in 1981 and flown here for use as an anti-terrorism trainer, it was later donated to the museum. CF-100 Canuck Mk5 18774 is painted all black to resemble the prototype, while CL-13A (CF-86B) 23257 wears the 'Golden Hawks' display team colours. Then, an overseas display team is represented by Swiss AF Hunter F58 J-4029, restored into Patrouille Suisse colours (with 30th anniversary markings), while another foreigner is former East German AF Mig-21MF 776 (23+45). On to the bigger stuff, RCAF CC-130E 130313 is now on display, after replacing 130314, which was on display for a few years from 2009, before being moved to a storage area on base, behind the museum (where it was photographed). This is a hybrid airframe, fitted with the wings from 130333. Some nice military aircraft on display here, my highlight though was a civil aircraft...

On 9th May 2012, 'probably' the last ever flight of a Boeing 720 occured, when Pratt & Whitney Canada's B720-023B C-FETB arrived here from its Montreal Saint-Hubert base. Operated as a Flying Experimental Test Bed (hence C-FETB) for over 24 years, after being acquired in Dec 1985 from MEA (ex OD-AFQ), the extensive modifications were completed after two years. Following its retirement, B747SP C-FPAW has taken over the engine test role for the company, with the classic 720 thankfully saved and put on display here, on permanent loan to the museum. Now, after seeing some aircraft in the circuit at the base, i then spent an hour or two at a good spot for runway 24 landing shots. As well as catching resident RCAF CC-150's 15001 ('Canada One' VIP scheme) and 15002 crew training, there was also Beech B200 C-GDVF/208 inbound, which is operated for the RCAF by Aero Support Canada Inc.

And so, straight back to Toronto YYZ, around 110 miles along the coast back to the West, i then had a final couple of hours for some final shots. With the weather not the best, i just hung around the main FBO ramps area, as the following ended the trip... Falcon 900EX N375SC, Falcon 2000 N262QS, Image Air Cessna 650 C-FORJ and CL605 C-GURJ, NovaJet Learjet 45 C-FNJT, nice BAe125-1000A N207K of Hot Mama Transport, Hawker 800XP N806TM and CL605 C-GIIT. As well as the biz, others included Turbo Beaver C-FYWT of Pioneer Construction Inc, FedEx Feeder/Morningstar Air Express Cessna 208B C-FEXH, Air Canada Express/Air Georgian Beech 1900D C-GVGA, Calgary based Regional 1 Airlines CRJ-200ER C-GRGD, and two nice B737's... Sunwing Airlines B737-800 C-FLSW with titles painted over and 'SmartWings' applied, being prepared for delivery on lease from the 11th. A first for me, this has recently had new Scimitar winglets retro-fitted. Then finally, it had to be one more classic to conclude a fantastic trip, filled with many classics, with the great sight of B737-200C C-FFAL of Xstrata Nickel/Glencore Canada Corporation arriving. Fitted with a 'gravel kit' modified nose wheel door, and 'cattle prods' at the engine intakes, it operates staff transport flights mainly from/to Rouyn-Noranda and other remote landing strips. Going back to a 'past life' as Air Tanzania's 5H-MRK, some may recall this being taken care of by Britannia Airways at Luton in the 80's. Nice to see it again!

And so, returning the rental at the end of an epic, memorable road trip, certainly the longest i have completed to date, it was on to BA098 to LHR. Operated by B747-400 G-CIVW, departure was at 2135, with the 6.40 hour flight in at 0915, for a quick connection on to BA125 to Bahrain. Operated by B777-200ER G-VIIS, departure was at 1110 for the 6.05 hour flight, landing at 1915.


More pictures to follow...

153904/000 F-4S USMC VMFA-321/MAG-41 Det A 'Hell's Angels' (Andrews AFB)