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Moving on in My Love Affair with the C-130H

Me preparing to drop supplies as part of Operation Christmas Drop.

Today is a very bittersweet day for me. After 7 years in the active duty Air Force, today is my last day on active duty.

It has been an incredible ride of ups and downs all over the world.  I have met many of the greatest people I have ever known in this time.  I have been mentored and taught by great minds who had so much to share and were willing to take me under their wing to help me become a better officer, aviator, and man.

I have witnessed the selfless sacrifices of countless other military members, and often the more difficult sacrifices of those we leave behind who keep life going while we go to serve others.  It is an awe-inspiring site to take part in actions that serve thousands of people all over the world who are in dire need of help.

The C-130 is a military plane, but the greatest work that it takes part in is the humanitarian missions it performs.  There is no other plane that can get into the places we can and provide the services we do.  It is a strange feeling to watch natural disasters play out in anticipation of the opportunity to go and help those people.

While it breaks my heart to see the last C-130Hs leave active duty this week, I am equally rejuvenated by the fact that I am starting the next chapter of my career as a member of the 192nd Airlift Squadron in the Nevada Air National Guard.  I do find it quite poetic that on the same day that the last C-130H will leave active duty I will also separate from active duty and move to the National Guard.

Swearing in as a member of the Nevada Air National Guard.

As I drove onto the base for the first time today it was a little surreal to me to think that I will stay here in Reno for the remainder of my career.  No matter how weird it may have felt, when I looked out on the ramp and saw their beautiful C-130Hs I felt right at home.

The awesome thing about the two planes I could see from the parking lot is that they are the MAFFS (Modular Airborne Fire Fighting System) birds that are utilized for fighting forest fires all over the country.  This struck me even more with the fires that ripped through California this past week, not too far from where we live.  They are easy to distinguish if you ever see these planes because of the huge orange numbers on the sides of them.

I am incredibly excited to take part in this new mission set to help fight fires, and hopefully prevent as much damage as possible.  I hate to sound like a broken record, but there is something special about being a part of missions that help people in trouble.

Preparing to fly in the Advanced Mountain Airlift Tactics School.

This is not my first time flying in the Reno area as I took part in the Advanced Mountain Airlift Tactics School shortly before I went to Japan.  I actually wrote about it back then if you would like to learn more.  Suffice it to say that it was the most useful flying course I have been through in the C-130 and provided tremendous insights into the intricacies of mountain flying.  Becoming an instructor for that course is just one more thing that I am looking forward to in my new adventure.

One reason I haven’t written much on here for the last year is because I just wasn’t flying much, and the flying we were doing was not really exciting.  While not every flight is meant to be fun and exciting, I am so looking forward to getting back to the flying that made me love the C-130.  Flying in the amazing Sierra Nevadas in some legit mountains is going to provide some great pictures and videos that I look forward to sharing with you in the coming months and years.

Thank you for the support over the years, and please come back to see more about my exciting new adventures.

October 15, 2017 I Written By

I'm Dave and I am a proud Avgeek. It goes way beyond liking airplanes. It is a passion that cannot be subdued.

Another C-130 Leaves the Air Force: The End of an Era

I don’t like to write about sad things, because, surprise surprise, it makes me sad.  The challenging thing about this story is that it involves doing something that I totally love, flying.

If you pay much attention to US Air Force changes then you know that the C-130H is being replaced by the C-130J which does not utilize the services of a navigator, which also means I am having to find a new job, but that is a whole different story.  Fortunately, these old beautiful birds still have a life to live in the Reserves and National Guard.

I had the opportunity to go and drop one of these planes off at its new home in Ohio.  While a few pictures and nice memories really don’t do justice to a plane that has served for more than 43 years, that is all that I have to offer.

The sunset as we were leaving Japan was simply stunning. Poetic as well as this was the sunset mission for tail 1659.

Our original plan was to fly the southern route across the Pacific visiting beautiful tropical islands as a good-bye to this sweet old lady.  However, as these planes have done for much of their career, she had different ideas.  She decided she wasn’t quite ready to leave Japan so she broke for two days.  That meant that we had to take the northern route through Alaska which was equally as beautiful, just a lot more chilly.

Having been to Alaska last year I was not quite as excited as I was to visit Hawaii for the first time, but it was just as beautiful as I remembered.  What was unique about this leg was the distance we were able to cover and the altitude we were able to reach.

Sunrise as we started to cross the Aleutian chain on our way into Alaska was equally as stunning.

Typically for us, 6-8 hours is a pretty long mission and generally the limit of our fuel depending on how much cargo we are carrying.  We also are generally restricted to about 20,000 feet or so in altitude because we are so heavy.  But a fortunate shift in the winds, and the small payload we were carrying allowed us fly for a full ten hours and climb all the way to 27,000 feet.  I know that is nothing for a commercial airliner, or even our bigger Air Force brothers, but for a C-130H that was a pretty big deal.  We also were able to make the trip from Japan to Anchorage without stopping which is an even more amazing feat for our non aerial refuel capable plane.

The Canadian Rockies are incredible to behold and probably more remote than most anywhere else I have ever been.

After some much-needed sleep in Alaska, despite the sun not setting until after midnight, we headed off for Great Falls, MT for another stop.  I have never flown over the Canadian Rockies before so it was really fun to see just how stunning they really are.  There was still a large amount of snow up there which made it even more majestic.

I know it is a small thing, that only my older brother may appreciate, but it was fun to just relax and toss a frisbee around for a few minutes. Yes there is someone relaxing in that hammock, the only way to travel in the back of a C-130.

I was also able to fulfill a career-long dream of mine on this leg, playing frisbee in the back of the plane while flying.  Generally this is not possible because we are full of stuff and/or people, but since all we had was the crew and a bunch of spare parts there was plenty of room for activities.  Fighter guys can do lots of cool fun stuff, but they can’t walk around and relax in the back of their planes.  They also have to use a piddle pack, but that too would be a story for another day.

After crossing over Glacier National Park we descended down into the plains near Great Falls and enjoyed some of the beautiful scenery, in particular the Missouri River.  Due to scheduling concerns, we actually had a day off in Great Falls where we were able to go out and enjoy some fishing on the river before proceeding on.  The fishing sucked because the river was so high, but I will never turn down some time on the banks of a beautiful river surrounded by stunning mountains with a fishing rod in my hand.

A stop in Big Sky country seemed fitting as this is the place that many of our other tails will be traveling to. A nice little break before her last leg.

It was a little sad leaving Great Falls on the last leg of our mission knowing that this would be the last leg of an active duty career spanning more than four decades.  There are only a handful of people in our squadron that were even alive when this plane was built, and now her time was up.

As we pulled into parking in Ohio and shut her down for the last time it was a little sad to say goodbye to another one of these sweet girls.  She still has a good life to live in the Guard, but as the number of H models we have on the ramp here continues to dwindle it makes me sad to see the end of this era.  If I’m being honest a little of that is selfish because I am losing my position on active duty, but I really think it goes deeper than that.

We often talk about how the C-130H was really the last plane in the Air Force inventory that you really got to fly because all of the others are so technologically advanced that computers do a lot of the work.  There is also something comforting about all of the gauges and dials, that broke as often as not, but that were a credit to the craftsmanship of this beautiful plane.  How many machines that are this complex have been able to take a legit beating for 40+ years and still keep working?  Not many.

So as I say goodbye to old 1659, it is with a heavy heart, but with fond memories of the amazing things I have gotten to do on this amazing aircraft.

No rest for the weary. Before we could even get all of our stuff of the plane, her new owners had her all ready to be towed into a hangar to get cleaned up and ready to keep working.

June 7, 2017 I Written By

I'm Dave and I am a proud Avgeek. It goes way beyond liking airplanes. It is a passion that cannot be subdued.

A Few Shots of Everyone’s Favorite C-130: Fat Albert

The Blue Angels are the highlight of pretty much every airshow they fly at.  They put on an exhilarating show that is almost impossible not to enjoy.

The part of the show that many people unfortunately overlook is one of my favorite parts.  Fat Albert is the workhorse of the show as the transport for the maintainers, as well as the only propeller driven aircraft in the show.  I had the opportunity to see Fat Albert back when they still utilized JATO bottles for some incredible takeoffs, and I have been hooked ever since.  In case you are wondering what a JATO takeoff is, check this out:

While living in Pensacola, FL, the home of the Blue Angels, I got to see Fat Albert quite often, but there is just something special about seeing him on the road.  I had that opportunity again last August while in Seattle during the SeaFair Air Show.

While most of the action took place out over the water, I actually think Fat Albert’s part of the show is better at the airport itself.  In this case that would be King County International Airport, better know as Boeing Field.  The outdoor static displays of the Museum of Flight is a unique and wonderful place to watch an airshow.  Though you will notice a few of those planes peeking into some of my pictures.

Every show starts with a takeoff.

Every show starts with a takeoff.

A zoom climb takeoff like this is incredibly uncomfortable since you are flying at maybe 10-20 feet with the gear up as fast as you can.  Keep in mind, that this is not a little Cessna 172, but a 100,000+ pound cargo plane.  That makes for an incredibly exhilarating experience, and some pretty insane takeoff angles for such a large, propeller-driven plane.

While it can sustain this angle forever, it does get you away from the ground, fast.

While it can’t sustain this angle forever, it does get you away from the ground, fast.

If you have ever watched a “normal” C-130 takeoff, it is not very exciting, and it takes a long time to get up and away.  While this is nothing compared to the old JATO takeoffs, it is fun to take off at this steep of an angle.

C-130s don't necessarily translate to air show excitement.

C-130s don’t necessarily translate to air show excitement.

In terms of the air show itself, this picture really sums up most of what a C-130 can do in an air show.  It can be fun to see some big banking 60 degree turns and high-speed passes, but the real power and utility of the C-130 can’t really be shown at an airshow, with the exception of the takeoff we already talked about, and maybe even more nerve-wracking, intense landings.

The C-130 was designed to go into austere locations and provide support to forces that otherwise would not receive it.  I often explain to friends that all we need is an area free of trees and other tall objects and we could get in there.  While that may not be 100% accurate, it really isn’t too far off.

When all you see out the window is ground, it can be quite unnerving.

When all you see out the window is ground, it can be quite unnerving.

One important aspect of this unique ability is approaching airfields at an incredibly steep angle.  We often refer to it as riding the elevator because you watch the altitude just spin off the altimeter.  I read an article from a reporter who got to take a ride on Fat Albert and she said that the most scary part was this steep descent into the runway.

You would never know that this plane just descended about 1000 feet in about 20 seconds.

You would never know that this plane just descended about 1000 feet in about 20 seconds.

While it may make the untrained civilian uncomfortable, it is things like this that get all of us Herc crew members excited about what we do.  It feels amazing when the pilot rounds it out and you touch softly down after screaming towards good old terra firma.

What a beautiful sight.

What a beautiful sight.

Everyone is attracted to the fast and agile planes at an airshow, and for good reason, because they are exciting.  However, the older I get the more I appreciate the wonder of some of these unsung heroes at airshows.  There may be no greater unsung hero than Fat Albert, but I may be a little biased.

May 14, 2016 I Written By

I'm Dave and I am a proud Avgeek. It goes way beyond liking airplanes. It is a passion that cannot be subdued.

Amazing New Technology in Aircraft Construction

Planes in and off themselves are amazing feats of technology, but today I saw a couple of different articles about some of the new technology going into the planes at Boeing and Airbus.

The new technology that Boeing is supporting is a new super-light metal that is also super strong.  Just look at the video below and tell me it is not awesome.

This metal is so light it can balance on top of a dandelion.

Posted by The Boeing Store on Friday, September 4, 2015

 

Airbus is continuing to innovate off of their A350 XWB in building their new A330neo.  They are utilizing materials technology from the innovative A350 XWB along with titanium to build lighter and stronger wing boxes and engine pylons.

It is pretty incredible all of the advancements that continue to be made in aviation.  What will be really fun to see is what the next majorly disruptive technology will be.  What do you think we may see in the near future? distant future?

September 7, 2015 I Written By

I'm Dave and I am a proud Avgeek. It goes way beyond liking airplanes. It is a passion that cannot be subdued.

Planes, Planes, Planes (and Some Helicopters)…From My Wanderings

I know that my crews always think I am weird for taking pictures of every single plane we are near, but oh well.  It comes with being an avgeek.  I don’t share a lot of them because I am not really proud of my abilities at this point, but here are a few that I think are awesome.  Not because I took a great picture but because they are just cool shots and/or planes.

Just after a touch and go.

Just after a touch and go.

This is a prime example of a crosswind takeoff.

This is a prime example of a crosswind takeoff.

I recently saw an AOPA article about crosswind takeoffs and I thought these two images were a pretty dang good example of just what that is.  It was a pretty windy day when I took this, but these guys really took it to a pretty serious extreme.

Videos really do more justice to this amazing aircraft.

Videos really do more justice to this amazing aircraft.

The AH-1 Cobra has always been a favorite of mine from when I was in the Marine Corps.  One of my favorite experiences was having them line up behind me while driving through Camp Pendleton.  I tried my hardest to find a great video from early in Iraq that starts out with a Samuel L. Jackson quote from Pulp Fiction as a two ship takes-off into the distance but to no avail.  Nothing special in this shot, but an amazing aircraft.

These beauties will always be my earliest memories of airplanes and airports.

These beauties will always be my earliest memories of airplanes and airports.

As much as I love the new American Airlines livery, this will probably always be my favorite.  There is just something truly iconic about it, and is there another plane that is more American Airlines?

IMG_3371How intense would it be to see all of these guys firing up?

I only had my short lens on...

I only had my short lens on…

...fortunately, he came back around.

…fortunately, he came back around.

Not many F-4s are still flying these days, and it was awesome to see this one in the pattern one day.  I still think it is the loudest plane that I have ever been around.

If you look really closely there is a VC-25 and E-4 in this picture.

If you look really closely there is a VC-25 and E-4 in this picture.

Not a great shot, but there were two government 747s in town this time.  Neither of which you get to see very often.  You just never know what you will see when you are out and about at various airports.

September 2, 2015 I Written By

I'm Dave and I am a proud Avgeek. It goes way beyond liking airplanes. It is a passion that cannot be subdued.

A Day of Spotting at Paine Field: Support Equipment

To close out my almost six-week vacation (it may sound nice to some of you, but honestly it is terrible) I have been able to spend some time in the Seattle area which is just about the best place any Avgeek can be.  It was awesome to see the SeaFair Airshow over the weekend that I will share more about later, as well as seeing all of the planes on final to SeaTac during my time downtown.

However, today was the best location of all as I got to spend most of the day at Paine Field, which is essentially Disneyland for us Avgeeks.  If you are into planes at all then you really need to get there and take in all of the aviation amazingness.  Ideally you should attend Aviation Geek Fest next spring, but really any time can be absolutely amazing.

All of these pictures were taken from the StratoDeck at Future of Flight, which is one of the best spotting locations ever.  I will share pictures of some of the amazing planes I saw later on, but in honor of my Twitter friend Jennifer, this post is all about support equipment.

It is amazing how many people and equipment it takes to run an airport, and Paine Field actually has a few things unique to their special operations.

I don't know if there is an airport fire department that stays busier than these guys.

I don’t know if there is an airport fire department that stays busier than these guys.

Every airport has a fire department on the field or close by, but few departments probably get as much work as these guys.  They are actually operated by Boeing, which makes sense with the demands they put on this group.  They come out for what seems like every single engine run, takeoff, and landing.  It is actually a good indication that engines are about to turn on a plane when you see the fire trucks roll at Paine Field.  Fortunately, the vast majority of their work is strictly precautionary, but they are incredibly important to overall safe operations.

I never once saw this guy stop working in the five hours I was at the field.

I never once saw this guy stop working in the five hours I was at the field.

Not the sexiest piece of equipment on the ramp, but still very important for safe operations.  This street sweeper was working constantly for the five hours I was there ensuring that taxiways and ramps were clean and free of debris, or FOD as it is referred to at airports.

These lifts were specifically designed to work with the Dreamlifters.

These lifts were specifically designed to work with the Dreamlifters.

As one might expect at a factory for manufacturing aircraft, there is a need for some special equipment, and these lifts are not just unique to the Boeing Factory, but to the building of a specific aircraft.  Much has been written about the production of the 787 Dreamliner, and specifically how much of it is assembled in other locations and thought brought to Everett for final assembly.

So how do you take aircraft fuselages and get them from one side of the world to the other?  You take a 747 and “put it in the microwave” so it blows up like a marshmallow so those fuselages will fit inside.  That is why Boeing uses the Dreamlifter to bring all of these pieces together.  Fun Fact: The 787-10s will all be built in Charleston where the main body sections are manufactured because they are too long to fit inside the Dreamlifter.

However, you can’t just unload sections like that with a forklift so Boeing had to build these lifts specifically for unloading the Dreamlifters.  As you can see they have quite a few of them to handle the rapid pace of production that they are currently experiencing.

You can see at least 11 sets of air stairs if you look closely.

You can see at least 11 sets of air stairs if you look closely.

No post for Jennifer would be complete without a mention of her absolute favorite piece of equipment, the air stairs.  While once again, not the sexiest piece of equipment, they do serve a valuable purpose in operations.  My apologies that I couldn’t get a more up close picture, but I made up for it in quantity.  There are probably more stairs on the ramp at Paine Field than probably most ramps in the world.  Heaven help us if she ever gets loose on that ramp.

If you are looking for a fresh and entertaining view of the aviation world, make sure that you take a look at Jennifer’s Blog, Tales From the Terminal.

August 5, 2015 I Written By

I'm Dave and I am a proud Avgeek. It goes way beyond liking airplanes. It is a passion that cannot be subdued.

Video of Homemade B-29 Bomber

I’m working to get my stuff together from the awesome training I did last week, but while you wait for that I thought I would share this awesome video my cousin sent me on Facebook.  It is incredible to see the handiwork that some people create.  I love the touch of having the flyable Bell X-1 under the wing that they actually fly.

So take a few minutes and enjoy this wonderful video.  If the video doesn’t show up try clicking here.

February 8, 2015 I Written By

I'm Dave and I am a proud Avgeek. It goes way beyond liking airplanes. It is a passion that cannot be subdued.

Air Force One to Find a New Home on the Boeing 747-8 Intercontinental

"Air Force One over Mt. Rushmore" by U.S. Air Force File Photo.

“Air Force One over Mt. Rushmore”  U.S. Air Force File Photo.

I know I am a little biased due to my preference for Boeing over Airbus, but the announcement that the latest variant of the 747 will be the new Air Force One really isn’t a surprise to anyone that followed the process at all.  It honestly would not look good to a lot of people to have the American President flying in a French plane.

Just to be clear, the callsign Air Force One applies to any Air Force aircraft that is carrying the president.  Which is why the S-3 Viking that carried President Bush onto the deck of the USS Abraham Lincoln was Navy One, because he was on a Navy plane.  The presidential helicopter bears the callsign Marine One when the president is on board.

Sorry for the lesson, I will get back to the story at hand.

Almost two years ago I wrote a piece about the 787 being a potential replacement for the presidential fleet of three aircraft.  I doubt that it was ever really an option because of the requirements they have for these aircraft, but it was kind of fun to think about it.

The newest 747 variant is the perfect chariot for the American President.

The newest 747 variant is the perfect chariot for the American President. Photo: Boeing

The latest version of the queen of the skies is a fitting fixture for our President to strut around the world in.  This plane is not just a means of transportation for a powerful leader, but a symbol of his office and the power that it bears.  It was a clear decision to pick the most majestic aircraft that is manufactured in America.

The A380 would have been a perfectly acceptable choice as well, along with a few other options, but the symbolic nature of this aircraft really made this choice a no-brainer.

The new planes won’t join the 89th Airlift Wing (the presidential squadron) for about eight years, so we will have gone through at least one more president by the time it enters service.  However, I’m sure I speak for all the other avgeeks out there when I say I hope we get to see some of the development, but I’m not naive enough to think we will see much of anything.

January 30, 2015 I Written By

I'm Dave and I am a proud Avgeek. It goes way beyond liking airplanes. It is a passion that cannot be subdued.

Christmas in a Piper Cub

The first attempt to fly didn't get much past the hangar, but even there she sure is pretty.

The first attempt to fly didn’t get much past the hangar, but even there she sure is pretty.

It is amazing how much life can change in only one short year.  Last year at this time I was deployed to Afghanistan thousands of miles away from my family.  While not the worst Christmas I have had, it was certainly not where I wanted to be.

A year later I am back in Arkansas enjoying a break with my beautiful wife and kids.  On top of the much-needed family time, I was able to take part in an amazing experience this afternoon.

I have a friend that I work with that is the proud owner of both a Pitts and Piper Cub that he bought a couple of months ago.  I was thrilled to find out he had gotten a plane with a second seat because all I want to do is fly anytime, anywhere.  We tried to go flying a few weeks ago but it was just too dang windy to fly.  This really sucked because he is scheduled to deploy soon.

Few things bring me more joy than walking out to a plane to fly.

Few things bring me more joy than walking out to a plane to fly.

On Christmas Eve we were two of the roughly 10 people who showed up to work for some strange reason and he suggested that Christmas should be a good day to fly, so we agreed to get together in the afternoon after the traditional festivities.  Fortunately, the weatherman was right and it was a gorgeous day to fly.

By the time I got to the airport he was already up in the pattern getting a little work in and it got me super excited to actually get up in a small plane again.  He pulled into parking and I hopped in to begin an amazing hour and a half.

The awesomeness began with takeoff as with a slight headwind we were able to takeoff in only 200 feet.  While it was no zoom climb up thousands of feet, there is just something fun about taking off in less than the length of a football field with the wind blowing past the open door next to you.

While not really for those afraid of heights leaning out the side of a plane is just awesome.

While not really for those afraid of heights leaning out the side of a plane is just awesome.

That is one of the amazing things about the Cub, with the door open you gain a sense of freedom that really is like nothing else.

We casually flew our way down to the Arkansas river at about 1000 feet enjoying an extremely pleasant December day.  There were a handful of other people out enjoying the amazing Christmas weather which was nice to see.  Once we got to the river we followed it out to the West and my friend showed me some of his favorite spots to play around.

The first was a small island in the middle of the river with a nice open grassy area surrounded by leafless trees.  We came in low and dropped below tree level until the end of the island and then popped back up over the top of the trees.  With my weight added to the plane and the tail wind it just wasn’t a safe move to put it down there.

This is what freedom looks like from the air.

This is what freedom looks like from the air.

We then spent the next hour or so cruising up the river checking out sandbars, a small abandoned runway, and the newest airport in the area which just recently began IFR service. We never broke 1500 feet or 95 knots which may sound incredibly boring, but it was quite the opposite.

It was incredibly exhilarating to literally fly amongst the birds and enjoy the wind blowing through the plane.  It is something that truly must be experienced to fully appreciate.  I genuinely hope this is the first of many flights in not only the Cub but in any other old tail-dragger that reminds me of how much fun flying is supposed to be.  Planes like this are what bring the wonder to aviation in this modern age of technological bells and whistles.

There are few better ways to spend an afternoon than VFR flying with a friend.

There are few better ways to spend an afternoon than VFR flying with a friend.

One of the incredibly cool things about this experience was the landing.  At our local airport they have an agreement to keep the grass mowed down so those who want to can land on the grass next to the runway.  Just one more example of the fun that can be had in a plane like the Cub.

I am incredibly grateful to my friend Harrison and wish him the best of luck and safety during his deployment.  The world needs more true aviators like him that really understand what flying is all about.  I have already learned a lot from him and I look forward to continued adventures once he returns.

December 26, 2014 I Written By

I'm Dave and I am a proud Avgeek. It goes way beyond liking airplanes. It is a passion that cannot be subdued.

Airbus A350: MinutePhysics Shows How it’s Made in 5 Minutes

If you are not familiar with MinutePhysics then I highly suggest you set aside an hour or two to enjoy some simplified science at its finest.  He does a great job of taking incredibly complex things and simplifying them for those people who want to be a little more educated, but not Sheldon from The Big Band Theory.

In this edition, Henry Reich takes a look at the brand spanking new Airbus A350 which had its first delivery today.  While five minutes is not near enough time to show everything I think he does a pretty fantastic job of describing the overall process.  Personally I am just incredibly jealous of the tours that he got.  I think most of us Avgeeks would give body parts to get the access he did.

Until that day comes enjoy the physics lesson.  The second video was released by Airbus and shows more of the tours themselves.

 

 

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December 22, 2014 I Written By

I'm Dave and I am a proud Avgeek. It goes way beyond liking airplanes. It is a passion that cannot be subdued.