Friday, May 20, 2011

Uncle Jack and Thunderbird

I ran across this video over at Warbird Information Exchange. It is kind of long (16 minutes), but is well worth the view. It details TV actor Gary Sinese's efforts to get his Uncle Jack a ride in a B-17. Jack Sinese was a B-17 navigator in WWII. Gary's friendship with the folks at Lone Star Flight Museum worked out, and surprise - Jack finds himself on a ride in Thunderbird.

This is pretty neat ...

p.s. - Cousin Gumby flew the Fort during this flight, his is the voice you hear asking Jack if he wants to go flying.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Heritage Phantoms

The Barksdale AFB airshow a couple of weekends ago featured two QF-4E Phantoms. They were from 82ATS, Det.1, based at Holloman AFB, NM. Both aircraft are painted in 'Heritage' paint schemes, a program the Air Force undertook a few years ago to paint up select QF-4s in paint schemes representing F-4s in USAF service over the years. 72-1140 is painted in Vietnam style camoflage, while 72-1485 carries the SEA wraparound scheme (no white belly).

72-1140 performed a spirited demo on each day of the show, flown by Bluto. Afterwards, it joined an A-10C from D-M AFB and P-51D Galveston Gal for a Heritage Flight demonstration. Seeing a Phantom fly these days is a very rare treat. To see one flown in a demo just doesn't happen very often.

The only remaining Phantoms in US service have been converted into target drones. They are used to test weapons systems and provide aircrew training. Based at Holloman AFB and Tyndall AFB, they are routinely flown several times with a pilot before being sent off on an unmanned mission that ends with the aircraft being shot down.

Spending the weekend in close proximity with the pilots and ground crew members for these jets was a treat. The loving care with which they treated the old girls was impressive - you would have thought that they were brand new aircraft, not ones that had been built 39 years ago.

The number of QF-4s left will ensure the aircraft is flying for a few more years. Current 'expentiture' estimates show the last shootdown happening sometime between 2014 and 2017. The last F-4 drone conversion contract was just signed, meaning there will be no more drone conversions after this small group passes through. QF-16 Lawn Darts will take their place on the shootdown line.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

New Stealth Hawk Used in Pakistan?

Photos released by Reuters show the wreckage of the 'Blackhawk' helicopter that was lost during the Bin Laden raid. From what I've heard, it supposedly had a mechanical failure and was destroyed on site. The helo was the one that landed inside the compound. What was left of the main body of the helo was burnt to an unrecognizable crisp ... BUT the tail rotor fell off or broke off sometime during the raid, ending up on the other side of a wall.

Photos of the tail rotor give some pretty definite hints that this was a special, previously unknown (at least to me) version of the Blackhawk family. The tail rotor appears to be optomized for stealth, with deflectors and fairings that appear to be designed to defeat radar.

This photo shows the top of the tail rotor assembly. It is resting on the very back of the tail, with the fuselage (or where the fuselage would normally be, pointing up to the sky.

Very interesting ... Can't wait to see one of these intact!

Photo credit Reuters

Update - Pakistan officials will release the tail rotor back to US possession, as a result of a visit from US Senator John Kerry. While on the surface, this seems to be good news, it doesn't really matter. Pakistan gave full access to the piece to Chinese military officials and scientists, who had all the time they needed to take it apart, study it, and take samples of the materials.

Pakistan - with allies like this, who needs enemies?

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Galveston Gal - Up And At 'Em

Lone Star Flight Museum's long awaited return to the ranks of Mustang ownership has been completed with the purchase and restoration of 'Galveston Gal'.

After a lengthy restoration and repaint, the aircraft made its airshow debut at NAS Corpus Christi, followed by a weekend at NAS Ft. Worth participating in the USAF Heritage Flight with an A-10C Thunderbolt II.

N4151D is actually a TF-51D, a true dual control Mustang, one of 12 built to this standard. Originally built as a normal P-51D, it was converted to dual controls while in service with the El Salvador Air Force. To my knowledge, it is the only survivor of these conversions. Once owned by Lone Star, they purchased the aircraft back from owner William Hane in 2009, and had it rebuilt by Ezell Aviation in Breckenridge, TX.

'Galveston Gal' is a faithful recreation of the P-51D that was flown by Lt. Ray Lancaster in the 370th Fighter Squadron, 359th Fighter Group. Now 90 years old, Lt. Lancaster was present in Galveston at LSFM when Tom Gregory brought the aircraft in on its delivery flight from Breckenridge.

The original 'Galveston Gal' was not named for a particular lady, but for the song made famous by Gene Autry.

These photos were shot in Ft. Worth during the airshow. The Heritage Flight was flown by Cousin Gumby in the Mustang, with General Tommy in his backseat, while Rifle was driving the Hawg.