USA & Canada April-May 2014 'The Twelve States Road Trip' Part I
Most of the US trips completed so far have included a fair amount of driving, but have mostly concentrated on a smaller area of interest, such as Florida or SoCal etc. This trip was to change all that, with certainly my most ambitious road trip to date, covering a huge distance over two weeks, taking in a lot of places of interest spread out across America's heartland. Many of these places could be on an enthusiasts 'bucket list', but due to the fact that they are spread out so much, away from more popular area's, means the best way to do them is by embarking on a road trip. Because of this, some of these places are seldom or rarely visited, compared with the more obvious places around the country.
As usual, this trip was designed around a few of the better airshows and events happening at the time, along with catching up with the classics and interesting stuff along the way. Kicking off with a very good airshow 'combo' weekend, with the shows at NAS Fort Worth and Barksdale AFB, this would be another return visit to spend time at this fantasic base. After flying into DFW and driving from Texas into Louisiana, the next event was the show in St Louis the following weekend. So, heading through Mississippi, Tennessee, Arkansas up into Missouri and Illinois, it was then back down to Mississippi for the Open Day at Tupelo, where 'salvage' company UAM open their doors on the first Saturday of each month. From here, it was pretty much straight up, North East all the way to Detroit, travelling through Alabama, Kentucky, Ohio and on to Michigan, visiting places such as Louisville (where the Kentucky Derby was taking place), Cincinnati, Columbus and the amazing NMUSAF at Wright-Patterson AFB. After leaving Barksdale, apart from Memphis and Blytheville, all of these places were being visited for the first time, until reaching Detroit, for a return visit to fantastic Willow Run. This time though, the wider Detroit area would be done, including up to the most Northerly point of the trip, at Kalitta's Oscoda base. With the best return flight home out of nearby Toronto, the trip was concluded with a few days in Canada, catching up with some more classics in the province of Ontario. OK then, eleven states and one province!
With the trip plan finalised, of course a lot of research and further planning was needed, including the visit requests, which these days are not so easy to succeed in getting. Not surprisingly, visiting so many places was also to include a fair amount of good luck and bad luck, with one major factor again playing its part... the weather! With news of 'Tornado Alley' being active again just before leaving, some resulting 'extreme' weather was expected in some of the states i would be travelling through. As it turned out, being a few days behind some of the worst of the weather, i was certainly fortunate to be enjoying mostly glorious sunshine. Travelling through some of the states badly affected and seeing some of the aftermath of the tornadoes and storms (for the first time), the sights in Tupelo were some of the worst. Knowing that quite a lot of people had lost their lives, the fact that i had missed out on the airshow at Barksdale, which was cancelled on the Sunday (being on Tornado watch) was hardly a hardship in the bigger picture of things. And so, a year to the day since the last trip to the US, here we go... 4,000 miles across twelve states...
DAY 1 FRIDAY 25TH APRIL
Flying with BA from Bahrain, as usual to the States, first flight was BA124 to Heathrow. Operated by their oldest (now 20 years!) B777-200 G-ZZZA, departure was at 0200, landing 6.30 hours later at 0630L. Connecting on to Dallas DFW with American codeshare AA51, operated by 13 months old B777-300ER N720AN, departure was at 1000 for the 9.20 hours flight, in at 1320L. Now, with a LOT of driving ahead over the next 12 days, i had decided to go for a decent rental, and after collecting the Ford Edge SUV, it was straight off to the first stop, close by along the perimeter here.
Having flown through DFW a few times, i had somehow overlooked the aircraft at the FTRC (Fire Training Research Center) here, located along the Western perimeter road. Two all white B727's are used for non-destructive training here, along with an ex American Airlines MD-80 and a couple of mock-ups. As there was nobody around i was easily able to shoot the 727's through the fence around the compound. Neither have registrations painted on, but are B727-200F's N272FE ex FedEx and N6807 ex Kitty Hawk. From here, todays plan was to take in Love Field and Addison to the East, before heading over to the NW side of Dallas for Denton and Alliance, where the first nights hotel was. On to nearby Love Field, the main biz field for Dallas, it was just a quick drive around the perimeter on this occasion, to shoot what was possible. These included Learjet 45XR N145MW, Gulf 280 N300R, 1975 built Learjet 35 N913CK of Kalitta Charters, Cessna 650 XA-GIT, Ameristar MD-83 N786TW and A330-200 'Prestige' (VIP version) VP-CAC, which arrived around two years ago for cabin fitting etc (for Comlux/Mid East Jet?).
From here, a nearby Home Depot was the next stop, for an important bit of equipment for the photographer... a good set of step ladders, that would certainly earn their worth over the next 12 days! On to nearby Addison, another good biz field, with a few old classics present and a nice surprise, those photographed included the sweet pair of resident B737-200's, the Stage III hush-kitted N370BC of BCM Majestic Corp (previously HZ-TBA) and Ameristar Charters N733TW, both of which are still active. On the visit here a year ago, the Ameristar ramp around their hangar also contained a DC-9 and half a dozen old Learjets, most with engines removed. Now all missing, its not known if these are all inside the hangar, or have met a worse fate? Still present though this time, were ancient 1965-built Falcon 20C’s N295TW (c/n 5) and N977TW (13), both long retired with engines removed. Then, other old classic biz photographed included Falcon 20F N223BG and Falcon 20C N234CA (17) of Cherry Air, both also thought to be wfu, nice hush-kitted Gulf 3 N77HG with MOJO Air logo on the fin (recently re-registered from N77BT, as photographed last time), Learjet 36A N36PJ of Guardian Flight Inc, HS125-700A N205TW and Westwind II N325LB of London Broadcasting Co (on maintenance). More modern biz included Cessna 680 N915FG, Cessna 525A N759R with 'Starbase Jet' on the fin, Cessna 560 N555PG and Hawker 800XP N543LF, while a couple of cargo Cessna 208B's present were N9471B of Martinaire and N102AN of AirNet, which departed. Then, while photographing this lot, the peace was certainly disturbed by a Hornet on a very low run and break! Hardly something you would expect here, US Navy F/A-18E 166841/NA-213 of VFA-81 'Sunliners' from NAS Oceana, then landed and parked at one of the FBO's! The pilot appeared to be greeted by some of his family, who then all drove off. Very nice! Finally while here, the Cavanaugh Flight Museum were having an after-hours private function, which i managed to gatecrash! Some of their nice stuff outside included USAF F-104A N66342/56-0780/FG-780 (apparently really 56-0779, fitted with the fin of 780), US Navy US-2B Tracker N37AM/136431/D-485, and ex Polish AF Mig-21UM N1121M/4504 painted in a nice Vietnam AF green camo scheme and markings.
So, after another good visit here, it was off to Denton, 30 miles to the NW, trying to get there before sundown. On arriving, some landing lights were seen, not far out... a Shed? Just getting to a reasonable spot, Alliance Air Charter/Air Cargo Carriers SD360-300 N972AA made for a nice sunset landing shot. This is one of the bases for the cargo feeder outfit, which now has the world's largest fleet of around 30 330/360's, as well as a couple of Falcon 20's (as photographed here last time). This particular 360 was previously operated by FedEx/Farnair as D-CFXA around 15 years ago. Then, also photographed in the fading light, engineless Falcon 20F N621JS was parked outside the hangar where two others retired were seen last time, with this one cancelled from the register last September. Also, opposite on the same ramp, was classic 1975 built Gulf 2SP N501JV with 'Ice Jets 2' on the fin. Although also showing as being cancelled from the register last September, it is again active, operated by Jetvue LLC.
And so, it was on to the final stop of a good first day, at Fort Worth Alliance, not far to the SW. As mentioned in the last report for this place, it is an excellent airport for photography, with the large ramp overlooked by a metal fence with large gaps between the railings, next to a grassed area with easy parking. As well as a fair amount of biz movements, there are a lot of transiting military aircraft, often night stopping here. Again, tonight was no different, with night-stoppers including another classic biz, nice 1978 built Falcon 20F-5 N378DB of Skyview LLC, along with NetJets Gulf 200 N700QS. The good amount of mil included a pair of US Navy T-45C's, 165085/A-106 of VT-7/TW-1 and 165466/A-123 of VT-9/TW-1 from NAS Meridian, along with five USAF T-6A's, 00-3578/EN and 02-3661/EN of the 459FTS 'Dragons', 01-3629/EN ('89FTS') and 07-3879/EN of the 89FTS, all from the 80FTW at Sheppard AFB, and 04-3738/VN of the 33FTS/71FTW at Vance AFB. The scene was completed by three two-seat Hornets, with USMC F/A-18D 164224/SH-273 of VMFAT-101 'Sharp Shooters' at MCAS Miramar, along with US Navy F/A-18F's 166846/NG-103 of VFA-41 'Black Aces' and 166973/NA-116 of VFA-22 'Fighting Redcocks' both at NAS Lemoore.
DAY 2 SATURDAY 26TH APRIL
Following another quick visit to shoot the same aircraft in the first rays of sunlight at Alliance, it was off South to nearby Fort Worth Meacham. Photographed again was 'resident' MD-87 N176AS (ex Austrian Airlines OE-LMK), which was left here engineless after being sold in 2005 to Aircraft and Engine Support LLC. Some developments since last year though, saw the aircraft auctioned off by the City Council last August (for $8,500), with reported plans for a VIP conversion and registration as N873DP. Now re-painted into a white and blue scheme, it remains parked without engines. Being a fairly busy biz field, others worked included Gulf 4 N973MW of MWDC Texas Inc, Phenom 300 N340AS of Executive Airshare Corp, brand new all white Cessna 525C N938LN (registered three days earlier), Flexjet Learjet 40 N611FX, Wal-Mart Stores Learjet 45 N455DG, old Beech 200 N705ML in demo colours (previously G-GKNB in the 80's), Westwind 1124A N78PT, Falcon 50 N634KA and 1977 built HS125-700A N816JM (last recorded as arriving here from Houston Hobby on 16th March). Also present, US Navy T-34C 160481/G-775 of VT-28 at NAS Corpus Christi, was a surprise parked at one of the FBO's.
On leaving, passing the two museums at the Southern end of the airfield here, it was noted the final remains of Kitty Hawk Convair 640 N860FW have now gone from next to the Vintage Flying Museum. A few hundred yards South at the Fort Worth Aviation Museum (previously the Veterans Memorial Air Park, until renamed last year), a new arrival is the A-12 Avenger II development airframe. Arriving by road from the Lockheed facility at nearby NAS Fort Worth last June, the proposed 'stealth bomber' replacement for the A-6 Intruder (and F-111 etc) was developed in the 80's as part of the ATA (Advanced Tactical Aircraft) program, before being cancelled in 1991 by Secretary of Defense, Dick Cheney. Then deciding to go with the Super Hornet, the A-12 program was a huge financial loss for McDonnell Douglas, which was seen as a factor in leading up to the merger with Boeing, and led to years of legal litigation, which was only settled this year. The only airframe built, with obvious similarities to the B-2 (hence the 'Flying Dorito' nickname), it is now at the rear of the museum awaiting display, still with outer 'wings' not attached.
From Meacham, it was the short distance SW to NAS Fort Worth, to join the queue of traffic outside the gate awaiting entry into the base for 'Air Power Expo 2014'. The plan was to get in early at 0900, to photograph the static without too many bodies around (which US shows are bad for, mostly having no fences around the aircraft), before heading off on the drive East (with not much of interest in the flying display later). The static included resident USMC KC-130T 163310/QH of VMGR-234 and F/A-18A++ 162848/MA-07 of VMFA-112 'Cowboys', US Navy F-5N 761571/AF-113 of VFC-111 'Sun Downers' at NAS Key West (in nice three tone tan/brown camo) and F/A-18A+ 162861/04 of reserve adversary unit VFC-12 'Fighting Omars' at NAS Oceana (in nice 'splinter' camo), along with resident US Army C-12R+ Huron 92-03327 of the 339th MI Co/11th Aviation Command and USAF C-130H 85-1364 of the 181AS/136AW TX ANG. Highlight though had to be brand new F-35C 168845/NJ-107 (CF-14, the fifth LRIP 5 C-model), still testing with Lockheed here prior to delivery. Painted in US Navy markings for VFA-101 'Grim Reapers', it will be based at Eglin AFB as part of the joint-USAF 33FW there. Unfortunately for those not attending the show this morning, the F-35C was only on static display for half of today, before being towed back over to the factory. Apparently, this was because of possible rainfall (which it did 12 hours later!)... as if this aircraft doesn't get mocked enough!
'Warbirds' on static included nice US Navy C-1A Trader N778SR/136778/16, the only airworthy example now recently painted with USS Lexington 'Blue Ghost/Ghost Riders' markings (to go with the 'Mudflap Girl, Haulin The Fleets Freight' nose art), and two from the Cavanaugh Flight Museum at Addison, USAAF P-40N Warhawk NL40PN/5 and US Army CV-2B (DHC-4A) Caribou N149HF/62-4149, a Vietnam vet re-painted with 61st Av Co markings. Then, over on the flightline ramp, as well as Blue Angels Hornets 1-7 and C-130T 164763 'Fat Albert', warbirds included US Navy FM-2 Wildcat N551TC/47160/7 and Trojan Phlyers T-28B's NX9060F/138164/TX-027 'USAF' and NX5443U/140047/TX-026 'USMC'. Finally, with the VMFA-112 'Cowboys' hangar being open, next to the static ramp, other Hornets could be photographed inside, with F/A-18A+'s 162409/MA-01 (CAG-Bird) and 162428/MA-02 present, as well as visiting F/A-18A++ 163173/VE-202 of VMFA-115 'Silver Eagles' from MCAS Beaufort.
So, leaving the show around mid-day, today's plan was to head East for the show at Barksdale tomorrow. With around 250 miles driving, stops would be made at Arlington Municipal, Dallas Exec and Tyler Pounds, before on to East Texas Regional, where the hotel was tonight, before the final 60 miles or so into Louisiana to Barksdale in the morning. First stop then, Arlington Municipal around 30 miles East, where highlights were a pair of classic pocket-rocket DC-9 freighters. Both based at Willow Run, Skyway Enterprises DC-9-15F N112PS still retains the Kitty Hawk fuselage colours (with 'A-Liner' on the fin), while parked along side, USA Jet DC-9-15RC N195US looked quite smart in the latest scheme. Both built in 1967 and four apart on the production line, Skyway just have this one DC-9 (along with a handfull of Sheds), while USA Jet still have a fair amount of Nine's, though are gradually being reduced (see Willow Run later). Also of interest here was corporate ERJ-135LR N403RW of RVR Aviation Charter (registered last August, ex American Eagle N715AE), which was parked remotely (active?), while biz included NetJets Cessna 680 N375QS, Falcon 50 N523PB of RVR Aircraft Sales LLC and Beechjet 400A N679SJ of Comtran International Inc. These latter two appeared to be stored/wfu, with N523PB (the one time PH-ILD of Philips from 1983-1998) last recorded as arriving here in November 2012 from Witham Field, while the engineless N679SJ was seen to have 'XC-LLZ' under the current reg, and was last recorded as arriving here last September from Wiley Post. Also present was 40 year old AA5 Tiger N9543L with (kind of) British Airways tail colours!
From here, Dallas Executive is around 15 miles further East, where security gates make it difficult for access and shots. The recently announced future national base of the Commemorative Air Force, with their warbird fleet of 160+ aircraft, currently spread around the country, highlight today was another classic, early 1969 built Gulf 2 N200EL of Bondstone Corp. Only this and Dallas Police Bell 206B N1510L were photographed, before it was off, to Tyler Pounds Regional around 90 miles further East. Here, the HAMM (Historic Aviation Memorial Museum) have their exhibits on display on a section of the ramp outside. These include USAF F-4D 66-8812/LF of the 457TFS/301TFW at Carswell AFB, F-104A 56-0733/FG-733 of 83FIS, F-105D 60-0500/TH of 457TFS/301TFW at Carswell AFB, GF-111A 67-0051 (marked as 67-0050), T-37B 62-5952/VN of 33FTS/71FTW 'Dragons' at Vance AFB, US Navy TA-4J 154291 painted as AD-303 of VA-43 from Holloman AFB and rare USMC FJ-4 Fury 139516 painted as WT-3 of VMF-232 'Red Devils'. As well as these, a couple of visitors were Phenom 100 N637AS of Executive Airshare Corp and MU-2B N100BY of TAG Air, while a look around the hangars provided Martinaire Cessna 208B N4602B, EC130B4 N336AM 'Tulsa Life Flight' and Nanchang CJ-6A N642K. Finally, on the opposite side of the airfield, the HAMM have their restoration hangar, with a Catalina fuselage under wraps outside, along with RCAF CF-101B 17471.
And so on to the final stop of a long busy day, East Texas Regional at Longview, around 40 miles further East. Arriving not long before sundown, there was time for a few shots, including of three USAF T-38C's routing through on a cross-country training flight, with 67-14858/VN and 68-8117/VN of 25FTS/71FTW 'Shooters' at Vance AFB, along with 69-7073/EN of 469FTS/80FTW 'Fighting Bulls' at Sheppard AFB. As well as these, Learjet 40 N77HN was also photographed, before a look over at the LeTourneau University facility at the NW of the airfield, where instructional airframes outside include classic USAF CT-39A 60-3500, which although looking a bit tatty, is complete.
DAY 3 SUNDAY 27TH APRIL
Having the option to photograph the Sabreliner again first thing this morning, if the weather was nice, wasn't taken up as it was a bit grimey. So, heading off, straight to Barksdale AFB, i had already heard the bad news, and on reaching the main gate it was confirmed... the airshow had been cancelled, due to potential storm weather in the area. Speaking with personnel there, they advised that the show aircraft would now be leaving today and tomorrow, so the best option was now to try and catch any departures. With runway 15 in use, the best spot to catch these would be the Mike Woods Park, just along the Southern perimeter, where a couple of other Brits and a couple of guys from New York were also hanging out. So, as well as USAF T-1A 91-0100/CB of the 48FTS/14FTW at Columbus AFB, T-38C 66-4349/EN of 469FTS/80FTW at Sheppard AFB, the pair of Tyndall F-22A Raptors, 02-4040/TY ('325FW') and 03-4043/TY ('43FS') of the 43FS/325FW, and C-17A 98-0055 ('58AS') of the 58AS/97AMW AETC at Altus AFB, also caught departing was the Cobra Ball trainer, TC-135S 62-4133/OF of the 45RS/55Wg from Offutt AFB. New with this, is the right wing, engine nacelles and pylons now being painted in regular grey, from the previous matt black (as on the three RC-135S Cobra Ball mission aircraft). Not confirmed why, but as the trainer is shared across the Offutt units, and there was no practical reason for the black, they decided to do away with it? Whatever the reason, a shame to lose something different.
With no sign of any bad weather, and mostly nice sunshine (of course!), there were also a couple of local Buff flights today, with B-52H 60-0032/LA of 96BS/2BW 'Barksdale' departing, before returning later. Better still was a visiting Minot aircraft, B-52H 61-0014/MT of 69BS/5BW 'Knighthawks', operating from here, which also departed before returning. With the movements here probably done for the day, i then decided on a quick look at nearby Shreveport Downtown. Having also visited here last year, when the 'resident' ex FedEx B727-200F N270FE of SUSLA (Southern University of Shreveport, Louisiana) was first seen, only resident Cessna 550 N900GF of CapJet was photographed to finish off today.
DAY 4 MONDAY 28TH APRIL
With runway 15 still in use, it was back to the Mike Woods Park first thing, to hopefully catch the remainder of the airshow departures, along with the morning Buff launches. Not ideal in the morning, facing East towards the sun, unfortunately the whole area to the East side of the base is military land, so not accessible. Departing B-52H's today were 60-0015/BD, 60-0041/BD and 60-0051/BD AFRC 93BS/307BW, while show traffic included KC-135R 60-0320 of 91ARS/6AMW at MacDill AFB, C-5B 85-0006 of AFRC 337AS/439AW 'Patriot Wing' at Westover ARB, old C-130H 74-2070 of 53AS/19AW 'The Rock' at Little Rock AFB as well as T-38C 67-14831/WM of 394CTS/509BW 'Follow Us' and big brother B-2A 82-1068/WM 'Spirit of New York' of the 13BS/509BW 'Grim Reapers' at Whiteman AFB.
With all the show aircraft away and the three Buffs due back, i then relocated to the North end of the runway, to catch them in the circuit and landing. After this, and with plenty of daylight remaining, the two Shreveport airports were re-visited. Firstly, back at Downtown, Beechjet 400A N877J, resident Beech 350 N42ED of Eldorado Resorts & Casino and 1946 built Navion N91137 in 'US Navy' colours (with a 93BS 'Indian Outlaws' B-52H unit logo on the nose!) were photographed, before on to Regional. Here, resident Cessna 550's N550DS, N600HW and Cessna 560 N579BB were parked outside, while FedEx A310-200F N427FE was also photographed. Then, spending an hour or so at the end of the runway, a few landing shots were of Eclipse 500's N565FP and N654FC, Air Med Services Beech B200 N511TA in LSU (Louisiana State University) 'Fighting Tigers' American football team colours, and River City Aviation Metro III N211RH. Still wearing the tail colours of OLT (ex D-COLD), those with a longer memory may recall this in a very different guise, when originally in Swedish AF camo as 88003, was the AEW Metro demonstrator, carrying the Ericsson Erieye Radar (as later used on the Saab's), shown at Farnborough 88 and 90!
DAY 5 TUESDAY 29TH APRIL
The final day at Barksdale, before moving on East. Even better weather today, with a runway change, onto 33 with landings from the South. A busier day with the Buffs as well, with more than half a dozen launching, so it was back to the Mike Woods park for their return. First though, a few visitors, with McConnell KC-135RT 60-0356 of the 22ARW arriving for circuit work, before a pair of Marines Hornets dropped in, with F/A-18D's 164723/(ED)07 and 164959/(ED)16 of VMFA(AW)-533/MAG-31 'Hawks' at MCAS Beaufort fuel stopping over lunch. Also visiting was C-21A 84-0077 of the 457AS/357AW at Andrews AFB. With the Buffs now returning, and more launching, this afternoon was probably the best time i've had here for photography, with so many in the circuit, in glorious weather. Highlight was a rare test aircraft flying, B-52H 60-0031/OT of 49TES/53Wg. One of two based here (the other being 60-0049/OT), this was photographed here two years ago, and now has the '49TES' and 'AFRC' on the fin. As well as this, others included 60-0003/BD and 61-0011/BD of AFRC 93BS/307BW, 61-0012/LA ('Loko' nose art) and 61-0015/LA ('The Last Laugh' nose art) of 96BS/2BW 'Barksdale', and 60-0048/LA (Phoenix nose art) of 20BS/2BW 'Barksdale'.
Hoping to leave earlier, wasn't to be, with this lot going on into early evening! Finally getting away, i at least wanted to get to Monroe Regional before sundown. Around 100 miles to the East, i finally got there just in time to shoot the DC-3A at the Chennault Aviation Museum before dark. N496 is a rare surviving original DC-3 with a passenger door, and is still in faded Enviromental Aviation Service colours, who last operated the aircraft (from 1975-1993). In fairly poor condition though, with a lot of parts missing, it doesn't appear to have had any work done since arriving here from Houma quite a few years ago. And so, with that in the bag, it was on to the hotel nearby.
DAY 6 WEDNESDAY 30TH APRIL
An early start, with a drive of around 110 miles to Jackson Hawkins Field, across into Mississippi. A quiet small-town airport, appearing quite deserted, where the original 1930's era terminal building still exists, long abandoned on the Southside of the airfield. Next to this, and using the ramp space, is the main reason for visiting here, the Jim Hankins Air Service hangar and aircraft. A very different company these days, with a small fleet of Barons and a Beech 90, thankfully the old propliners still survive, even if all long retired. Nobody around their hangar to ask, thankfully a lady from the Civil Air Patrol hangar nearby was kind enough to let me onto the ramp, to photograph the three Daks and three Beech 18's present. Two of the Daks are complete, with C-47A N3BA and C-47-DL N8061A both having full company titles, although in different (inherited) schemes. Infact, these are still current on the US register, though not so for C-53-DO N447RS, which was cancelled in 2012. Obviously derelict for a long time, with a lot of parts missing, the faded scheme only has ex reg N1030D visible. Previously registered to the owner, James Hankins (and not the company), it has a large rear passenger window, which no doubt has a story behind it.
Of the 'Expeditors' here, Beech H18 N92756 looks the most airworthy (and is still current), with tyres not quite flat. Looking a bit 'pimped' in a black scheme, it has flame effects on the engine cowlings, and blacked-out windows! Also still current, Beech C-45H N4209V is a Volpar Turboliner (nosewheel) conversion, though is engineless and looking quite tatty. Last flight recorded for this was from Savannah in Jan 2005. Also present, Beech H18 N368HC is just a derelict bare metal fuselage, with a LOT missing. Still showing as being current, it just has ex reg N8217 clearly marked on the right side only. Apparently, although not seen, another Beech H18 here, inside the hangar, is smart all blue N22BR (a nosewheel conversion). Finally for this place, the Mississippi Army National Guard have a base here, with the 185th Theater Aviation Brigade operating Blackhawks and Kiowas. Not accessed, two Blackhawks were seen outside (one with '862' on the fin), as well as US Army C-12F 84-00144 of OSACOM.
A big driving day today, the next stop was Greenwood Leflore airport, around 80 miles to the North. The first 'salvage field' visited on this trip, here the Memphis Group dominate the airport, with their large facility for the booming industry of 'aircraft disassembly and component recycling'... otherwise known as scrapping! Unfortunately for the enthusiast, and especially photographer, (almost) all the companies in this game do not really want pictures being published of their aircraft and work carried out. Expecting this now, my prior contact was unanswered, and on arriving and asking, my request to photograph any aircraft possible, was denied, despite the 'not for publication' assurance. The now familiar 'our customers would not appreciate it' (pictures of their aircraft not looking their best!), i guess is understandable. Although in the past, i know people have gained access here, it can now be described as being not 'spotter-friendly', even though they were polite about it, saying they turn away quite a few enthusiasts. So, with no access, the other option was to shoot what was possible from outside the fence, including...
Korean Air Cargo B747-400BCF HL7484 (still complete, with titles and tail logo painted over, arrived Dec 2013, less than 4 years after freighter conversion), Philipines Airlines B747-400 RP-C8168 (all white with just the red on the fin, arrived Aug 2013), Iberia A340-300 EC-LKS (still in full colours with engines removed, arrived Dec 2013), Singapore Airlines B777-200ER 9V-SQE (white with blue cheatline and fin, with many parts missing, including the flight deck, arrived Jun 2013), China Southern B737-300's B-2923 (arrived Nov 2012), B-2952 (arrived Dec 2012) and B-2935 (just arrived on 14th April, all still in full colours, with just engines removed), Jet Airways Konnect B737-800 VT-JNZ (still in full colours, with many parts missing, arrived Apr 2013 and registered as N658CS, though not worn), Onur Air A320's TC-OBD and TC-OBE (both still in full '21 Years' colours, with many parts missing, arrived Nov 2013), Southwest B737-300 N698SW (titles painted over and engines removed, arrived Feb 2013) and US Airways B737-400 N459UW (arrived May 2013) and unidentified B737-300 (both with engines and other parts missing, and titles painted over).
So, being happy enough with the shots at Greenwood in the end, it was then on to Memphis, around 120 miles to the North, across into Tennessee. Having had a good visit here last year, when a very busy FedEx arrival and departure sequence was photographed, today was just a quick look on passing through, with no busy FedEx periods expected. Also, getting good shots of the 880 and Jetstar at Graceland last time as well, there was no need for a return there either. So, a look around the perimeter and FBO ramps at MEM, first provided a bit of a surprise, with a previously unknown fire trainer present. Actually outside the airfield perimeter (though still on airport property) to the South, under the final approach to runway 36L, there is the fuselage of ex Air Canada DC-9-32 C-FTMG. With fin/arse end and wings cut off, it is still in the old Air Canada colours (with the titles just about visible after being painted out), and has had (fake) 'Generic Airlines' titles and logo applied. One of six parted out at Greenwood at the end of the 90's, it ended up here, and is located near to another trainer, the fuselage of ex Northwest Airlink/Meseba Airlines BAe RJ-85 N528XJ (also visible on google earth). This was w/o here in 2002 after being taxied into an airbridge by mechanics, following a maintenance check.
Next stop, just past the Tennessee ANG (C-5A and C-17A) ramp, along the Eastern perimeter road, a couple of stored FedEx B727-200F's were parked next to the fence, with N257FE and N481FE sealed up awaiting their fate. It was N481FE that opererated the last scheduled FedEx 727 flight, from Indianapolis-Memphis on 21st June 2013. At the end of the same ramp, the DHL facility usually have a B767-200F parked up, with N769AX present today. Then, around on the FBO ramps, a couple of shots included Flight Options Phenom 300 N329FL, Cessna 680 N219LC and classic old Beech U-8F Seminole Excalibur N16BN of Excalibur Aviation Corp. The military version of the Queen Air, this was formerly US Army 62-03863, and has the 'Excalibur 800' engine conversion. Finally, around among the huge FedEx facility on the Northside, company Global Express N1FE was photographed doing engine runs, before i then headed off, to catch more (ex) FedEx B727's.
Around 20 miles to the North of MEM is Millington Regional, where ex FedEx B727-100C N144FE was donated to the Fire Department. Parked up in basic colours, it is complete apart from the missing engines, and used for non-destructive training. Good to catch that after missing it last time, another donated 727 was at the next stop, West Memphis Municipal, around 25 miles back to the SW, actually across the Mississippi River in Arkansas. Here, ex FedEx B727-200F N267FE ‘Jolene’ was caught last time, but is now fully re-assembled, after being donated to the Mid-South Community College. Also photographed here was Allen Air Cessna 501SP N27WW, along with a few old cargo twins, belonging to based McNeely Charter Service, which were also seen last year. Shorts C-23A N262AG, still in the old USAF camo scheme is still active, and was a familiar sight around the UK in the mid-late 80’s when operated as 84-0473. Also, Merlin IV's N120SC (with the MCS logo) and retired N427SP were again present, with the latter being pwfu after making an accidental gear up landing here in 2010 following a flight from Opa Locka.
From here, the next stop was Blytheville ‘Arkansas International Airport’, 60 miles to the North. The second 'salvage field' visited today, the airport has effectively been taken over by MRO outfit ART (Aviation Repair Technologies), who specialize in storage and parting out of older airliners, as well as checks and services for commuters and other types up to B737 size. The airport offers a lot of large hangars and ramp space for all this, which dates back to the Blytheville AFB days. Clients include Delta Airlines, with a parting out service for some of their retired aircraft, as well as other MD-80/90's purchased for their engines and other parts, to supply to their large fleet. Last year, i was fortunate to have full photo access here, but unfortunately, the manager who granted this no longer works here, and my prior contact and request on arriving this time, were both denied, with the familiar 'our customers wouldn't appreciate photos being taken'. No big deal though, after shooting everything last time in great weather, there were still a few new arrivals since then, some of which could be worked from the fence. These included Delta B757-200's N640DL (titles and logos painted out, with engines and undercarriage missing, propped up on pallets, after arriving Jun 2013), N641DL (arrived Aug 2013), N642DL and N645DL (both arrived Sep 2013, all sealed up and complete, apart from engines removed). Delta DC-9-50's included (engineless) N780NC, which arriving this January, was one of the last in service, while 'donor' aircraft for Delta now included ex SAS MD-82 SE-DMB which was still complete after arriving on 9th April (and has N482DN sprayed on with aerosol), as well as an unidentified ex American MD-83. Also new, are a few ex FedEx B727-200F's, which arrived late last year following the types retirement with the company. N204FE and N211FE (along with N203FE and N213FE not photographed) all arrived in Nov 2013, and are complete, with titles and tail logos painted over. All four are reported to be going to Services Air of the Congo (DRC), who have already received several other ex FedEx B727-200F's. Also to mention, one aircraft present last year, which has now managed to leave, is B767-200 N767VA of Vision Air. Following storage at Louisville, then here, it was then flown the short distance to Memphis before on to Mexico City last October, for continued storage.
Finally for today, it was on to Sikeston, a further 70 miles to the North in Missouri, around half way between Memphis and St Louis. Here, the Veteran's Park at Sikeston airfield has a nice Phantom mounted on display. F-4J 153839/NG-102 is restored into VF-96 'Fighting Falcons' (NAS Miramar) markings, as assigned to USS Enterprise. Previously flying with the Blue Angels, it later served with the Naval Air Test Center. Photographed in nice early evening sun, a nice surprise also present, was a new US Army Blackhawk parked on the grass nearby. Serial worn was '20286' (with '91' taped on the back window), which is thought to be 10-20286, either a MH-60M or UH-60M? Some final great shots to end a busy day, with a lot of miles covered, the hotel was nearby.
DAY 7 THURSDAY 1ST MAY
Heading straight off first thing, continuing North, the first stop today was at Cape Girardeau Regional, 25 miles further up I55. As well as 'gate guard' US Navy TA-4J 152861/A-706 of VT-7/CTW-1 (NAS Meridian), Cessna 680 N203DN was also photographed. From here, the next stop was much anticipated, being a fan of classic old biz-jets, though with no access arranged, it was more in hope that i would come away with some shots. Around 55 miles further North, Perryville Municipal is the home of the Sabreliner Corporation, currently in the process of being re-named Sabreliner Aviation. As production of the aircraft, which had its first flight in 1958, came to a close in 1981, the following year, Rockwell sold its Sabreliner division to a newly formed company, the Sabreliner Corporation, who have continued to provide support for operators since. In addition to servicing and checks, a new paintshop was opened here recently, for clients including the US Navy, for their T-39 fleet. As well as the Sabreliner work, the company has diversified into other military work, including helicopter modifications. Partly because of this military work carried out here, access for photography is difficult, with my request on arriving being denied (with nothing parked outside this morning anyway). However, there were still a few aircraft possible to shoot (discreetly), with three Sabreliners in the storage yard, next to the main car park. All retired, in a similar state, with major parts removed, Sabre 60 N1GM was previously based at Baltimore with Victory Christian Ministries International, and is a fairly recent arrival (within the last nine months). Older 1965 built Sabre 40 N47VL (no reg carried) was last registered to Jett Racing And Sales Inc, and arrived here over four years ago, on 25/1/10 from Laredo, TX. Best of all was Sabre 40 XA-JGI, which ended up here following an accident at San Antonio back in 2005. Bit of a mystery over the id on this though (wasn't checked), with info on the reg or stated c/n (282-80) strangely hard to find. Seems to be ex XA-FTN (Fransisco Torres Nieto) and N40WH (of HAC Inc, which was canx to Mexico in 1980), with the owner at the time of the accident, according to the NTSB report, being Jorge Jaramillo Hernandez. The report states that on departure from San Antonio for Toluca on 21/1/05, the aircraft lost hydraulic pressure while taxying, with steering and braking ineffective, resulting in a collision with a parked PC-12. FAA inspection later revealed that the hydraulic fluid reservoir was empty. Doh!
So, a few Sabreliners in the bag, from here it was straight on to St Louis, which was to provide quite a few more, including a couple in a very unusual location. First then, the Spirit of St Louis Airport (to the West of the city) around 70 miles to the NW, which was gearing up for their airshow at the weekend. Arriving today were Blue Angles Hornets 1-7 along with C-130T 164763 'Fat Albert', which had their first practice. Obviously the main biz field for St Louis, the good selection present here included four more Sabreliners, with MRO Avmats specializing in the type. Photographed were Sabre 65's N66GE, N799MW and N74BJ. This arrived in February last year, on delivery to Wings of Hope, from its previous owner in San Antonio, and may have been parked up since. Also present, in open storage, is an even less common (and last version built) Sabre 80 N22NB, which is for sale with Avmats on behalf of owners Constuction Partners Inc of Dothan, AL (infact its last recorded flight was from Dothan in May 2012). Other classic biz present included retired 1968 built Falcon 20C N68BP, which is parked engineless after its last recorded flight in April 2011, and 1967 built Falcon 20C N6555L, which started life with the RAAF. Similar to Sabre N74BJ, this arrived in December 2011, on delivery to Wings of Hope, from its previous owner in Scottsdale, and may have been parked up since. Also, a classic Brit present was based 1979 built HS125-700A N120JC of Southwestern Jet Charter. Another resident photographed was Gulf 4SP N970KG, while the most numerous type present was the Learjet, thanks mainly to AirNet Systems, who have a base here. Present were their Lear 35A's N27BL, N64CP, N81FR, N122JW and N400JE, along with Cessna 208B N103AN. As well as these, other Learjets worked included Flexjet Lear 60 N261FX (arrived 18th April from Dallas-Addison) and Lear 45 N437FX, Lear 60 N607SB, based Lear 45 N1250, and Lear 25D N555SD of Joe Brand Inc (fashion store), which was parked engineless after arriving from its Laredo base on 19th March. Finally, saving probably the most interesting aircraft present until last, highlight here was CRJ-100ER N7143 still in full ALMA de Mexico colours. The former Air Littoral F-GPYQ, it was operated by the Mexican low-cost airline (based in Guadalajara) as XA-UFX from Jul 2006 until Nov 2008, when the airline ceased operations. Returned to CRAFT (Canadian Regional Aircraft Finance Transaction), it arrived here for continued storage just over a year ago, on 25th April, with the US reg taped over the Mexican'.
Now for something completely different... "Reminiscent of a Mad Max, post-apocalyptic-inspired playground, this metallic mammoth of architectural chaos and interactive sculpture, inspires a child-like sense of bravado in guests of all ages". MonstroCity is part of the huge, 600,000 square-foot former International Shoe Company building in downtown St Louis, now housing the City Museum. As part of this 'industrial playscape' the museum has a pair of Sabreliners, mounted five stories above the ground as part of the outdoor climbing area, linked by metal-framed tunnels. Different, and the reason i am here! Both Sabre 40's built in 1965, N40BP is fairly complete, while N225LS is more or less a fuselage 'frame'. As well as these, the museum also has the fuselage of Jetstar 8 N171JL, though kept in their workshop, it can't be seen. Apparently, as well as the wings, the nose has been removed and it is decorated like a sea creature, with plans to 'hang it from the roof'! Moving on!...
Just across the Mississippi river, in Illinois, St Louis Downtown Airport was next, for the first of two visits here. First thing seen, and quite recent arrival, was yet another ex FedEx B727-200F donated for training. N288FE arrived last April, for the Fire Service and Parks College of Engineering, and was the 70th FedEx B727 donated to organisations around the country for educational and training purposes since 2000. The first such FedEx donation in the St Louis area, this aircraft has a brief link to the city, originally being one of just two B727's purchased by Ozark Airlines back in 1979. Based in St Louis, Ozark had acquired Parks Air College Airlines in 1950, to gain its operating certificate and routes, in order to commence services. Although both were painted into Ozark colours, they were then transferred to Pan Am, with N721ZK becoming N362PA. Ozark was later merged into TWA in 1986, while N362PA was retired when Pan Am ceased operations in 1991. Converted for FedEx, N288FE then saw 20 years of service before arriving here, where it is now located landside at the NW corner of the airfield. Planned to be the centerpiece of a new training site there, the aircraft’s primary purpose will be a fire service trainer, as well as a classroom and ground trainer with Parks Air College. This was America's first federally certified school of aviation, founded in 1927, holding the FAA Air Agency Certificate number 1.
As well as this, two more classics here, are DC-3C (C-47B) N68CW, still in full North Cariboo colours (ex C-FBXY). Complete apart from missing control surfaces, it had been registered here to Aviation Business Corp since Nov 2007, though was recently registered to Airspeed Aircraft LLC (of Bethesda, MD) on 14th March. Parked alongside is Convair 440 N136CA, also registered to Aviation Business Corp, since April 2002. Originally Finnish Airlines OH-LRE from 1957-1980, its last recorded flight was from Fort Myers, FL in Nov 2006. Parked up since, with a cover over the nose, it is said to be painted in Renown Aviation colours (kind of). Then, also photographed here today, among a couple of biz present, was Chicago-Waukegan based Falcon 2000S N748RE of Hawk Air.
Still with plenty of the day left, before going on to the final stop at Scott AFB (where i only expected to shoot the gate guards), i then decided on a visit to St Louis Regional, around 25 miles to the North. As well as a few biz present, there is a Phantom mounted on display here. GF-4C 63-7491/SL has 110TFS/131TFW MO ANG 'Missouri' markings, though is a former 199FIS/154TFG Hawaii ANG aircraft, last assigned to Sheppard AFB as an instructional airframe (hence the GF- designation). Then, biz photographed included Cessna 550 Bravo N40MF and nice CL604 N604PA of New Prime Inc (trucking company). Based at Springfield, MO, this is painted in a blue/gold scheme, and also has 'Palace Casino Resort, Biloxi, Mississippi' on the engine cowlings.
So on to Scott AFB, around 25 miles back South, the Heritage Airpark, next to the main gate along Seibert Road, has five aircraft on display, some of which have links to the base. Set out nicely and lit up at night, the Starlifter dominates. Last serving with the 58AS at Altus AFB, C-141B 65-0236 has been restored into the 70's white/grey scheme, with 60MAW (Travis AFB) markings. One of three Norton AFB based Starlifters flown to Hanoi on the first day of Operation 'Homecoming' in 1973, twenty years later it was retired here. Alongside, KC-135E 56-3611 served here with the 108ARS/126ARW IL ANG, while C-9A 71-0877 was assigned to the 30AS at Yakota Airbase, before going to AMARC in Sep 2003. However, it escaped after only a couple of weeks, returned to service with the 73AS/932AW here, before being retired three years later. Also present is old C-130E 62-1862 marked as 463AG 'The Rock' (Little Rock AFB), while certainly the highlight for me was C-140A 59-5959. Wearing nice Flight Check camo, being assigned to AFCC, it was based at Clark in the Philippines with the 1867FCS during the Vietnam war, when it was hit by ground fire twice. Later it was based at Rhein-Main with the 1868FCS in the 70's, before ending up here with the 1467FCS, where it was the last of the type to be retired in 1996.
With none of the resident KC-135's, C-40's or C-21's photographed on this visit, there is also a KC-135 and T-39 on display inside the base which couldn't be accessed. However, on the 'civil' east side of the airfield, known as MidAmerica St Louis Airport, two others which were planned to be displayed at the Airpark, can be photographed. Parked up for quite a few years now, C-141C 67-0166 from the 89AS/445AW AFRC at Wright-Patterson AFB is stored alongside KC-135A 63-8010, which still wears the 46ARS badge on the nose (from when assigned to the 410th OG at KI Sawyer AFB). This arrived here in Sep 1993, shortly before the unit was inactivated. The Starlifter is notable in being the last built, and was supposed to fly to the boneyard in Jan 2006, but was given a reprieve. Instead, it made the last ever flight of a C-141 on a 'line' mission, when arriving here on 7th April of that year. Previously used for VIP transportation (by CINCMAC), it also flew the Bob Hope tour around during the Vietnam war and the first Gulf war, so had very low hours (22,185.5 in the end), around half the average 'Lifter. Obviously both of these have been parked up for a long time now, and with other examples of the types already at the Airpark, their future may be unsure? Finally, at the end of another long day, after checking into the hotel, it was back out with the tripod for some night shots. As well as going back to the Heritage Airpark, the chance of a very good 'sightseeing' shot couldn't be missed! Just across the river from the city centre, there is a purpose built viewing platform at the Malcolm Martin Memorial Park, which gives fantastic views of The Gateway Arch. This famous symbol of St Louis is the tallest man-made monument in the United States, and the world's tallest arch. An awesome sight, especially lit up at night.
DAY 8 FRIDAY 2ND MAY
The second day in the St Louis area before heading back South, started a bit overcast, so no point in going back to the Heritage Airpark, as the shots from yesterday wouldn't be improved on. So, straight off to St Louis Downtown, for the second visit there, Jet Aviation have a Bombardier completion facility here, for 'green' Challengers and Global Express aircraft. Not so easy for shots, with tight security, one shot managed was of Global Express 6000 M-ABFQ, in bare metal/primer with '9494' on the nose (con number). Bit of a strange one this, it was delivered to AGT International GmbH (Zurich) in Nov 2012, and ferried to Cambridge. Over a year later it was still there, before ending up here, where it is still in the same (external) state today! As well as this, another biz photographed today was resident Hawker 800XP N81SF of Broadway Air Corp, which departed. Then, outside at the Greater St Louis Air & Space Museum, housed in the historic Curtiss-Wright Hangar 2, a classic... Jetstar 8 N511TD. Once owned by Howard Hughes, it made its final flight here 16 years ago in May 1998, from Falls International, MN. Also from here, a couple of other shots, were of Beech C90 N211PC of the Remote Area Medical Foundation at Knoxville, and a Brazilian motor-glider! Apparently based here for a few years, PT-PME is an Aeromot AMT-100 Ximango (a Brazilian-built version of the Fournier RF-10). A bit unexpected!...
From here, it was on to Spirit of St Louis Airport, with a second visit for more biz and pre-airshow action. Another good haul of biz, included the following present/movements... Emerson Electric Co have their Falcons based here, with 1980 built Falcon 50 N8300E, slightly younger N8400E and much younger Falcon 50EX N850EN all photographed. Also resident is Cessna 560XLS N305LX, while Beechjet 400A's N315R and N545TC were also present, along with NetJets Cessna 680 N396QS, classic 1980 built Westwind 1124 N78GJ of MF Aviation, Flexjet Challenger 300's N542FX and N550FX, based Beechjet 400A N400SF and Falcon 900EX N745TM (with the 7 taped over a 9, with pending reg change to N945TM), NetJets Gulf 4SP N498QS, Qwest Corp Falcon 2000 N303CL, Cessna 680 N83SD of Hi Tail It LLC (great name!), Cessna 525A N800GF, based Monsanto Co Falcon 900EX N229DK, Hawker 800XP N53LB of Joe Buck Inc (American sportscaster) and Cessna 560 Ultra N5263 of Big River Aviation. Others included Mid-Continent Aviation Services Kodiak 100 N89KQ, Martinaire Cessna 208B N1116W (new on the AirNet Systems ramp) and Saint Louis County Police Hu500E N911CP 'Air 3'.
Then, airshow arrivals today included 'warbirds'... C-1A Trader N189G/146044/JK-62 'Miss Belle', of Trader Air (based at Topeka, KS), painted in US Navy VRC-40 'USS Independence' markings (its last assignment from 1985-1987), Berlin Airlift Historical Foundation C-54E N500EJ 'Spirit of Freedom', and from the Commemorative Air Force... TB-25J N345TH/44-31385 'Show Me' and TBM-3E Avenger N5264V/53353 (both Missouri Wing, based at St Charles), A-26B N9628C/41-39230 'Lady Liberty' (based at Enid, OK), FG-1D Corsair N9964Z/530 (VMF-312 markings) and SBD-5 Dauntless NL826A (Dixie Wing). Others included F8F-2 Bearcat N68RW/1 (BuNo 121776, painted in Blue Angels colours, as flown from 1946-1949) and Sky Soldiers AH-1F's N589HF/67-15589 and N826HF/0-15826, while some nice modern military included US Navy P-8A 167955/JA of VX-1 'Pioneers' at NAS Patuxent River, and brand new US Navy EA-18G Growler 168893 (no unit markings), visiting the show prior to delivery, from the factory at nearby St. Louis Lambert. Another Hornet, Blue Angels F/A-18D 163464/7 made a local flight, before the whole team and Fat Albert performed a practice display. Finally, previously mentioned MRO, Avmats are restoring former US Navy T-2C Buckeye 158890/A (with VT-19/CTW-1 'USS Forrestal' markings) to flying condition here, which was towed from their hangar to the static ramp.
With a long drive South ahead, i had wanted to get away earlier, but it wasn't easy with all this going on, as the weather had turned very nice for the afternoon. Finally making a move, one final shot was of USAF F-101B 58-0281, which is on display along the entrance road here. Now, my aim was to make Southern Illinois Airport, around 115 miles to the SE, before sundown. One nice aircraft here is classic B737-200 N9009U, which was donated by United Airlines to the Southern Illinois University, Carbondale as a ground trainer. Now painted all white and covered in logos, it is used by SIU Aviation Technologies students for aircraft maintenance and systems operation training. The last non-advanced United B737-200 retired, at San Fransisco in Nov 1998, it was then flown here in March 1999. So, with that in the bag, just as the sun dropped out of sight, it was straight off, on to the hotel, around another 150 miles South, in Jackson, Tennessee. Heading down to Tupelo, this was a 'big hit' on the road, so had decided to break the journey up, still with another 100 miles to go. Now dark, and getting my foot down a bit before it got too late, the blinding, multi-coloured lights flashing in the rear view only meant one thing! The only such experience of the trip, it was my lucky day though, with just a polite warning for the Brit ('we don't see many in these parts'), and i was on my way... Part II to follow...