Category Archives: Aviation

We have visited California Firefighting Hub: San Bernardino Airtanker Base

We have visited the Airtanker Firefighting Hub in California.

Located on the former grounds of Norton Air Force Base, closed under the BRAC (Base Realignment And Closure) proceedings in the early 1990s, San Bernardino International Airport, to the east of Los Angeles, is nowadays the home to the U.S. Forest Service Tanker.

The Airtanker base is the backbone of aviation firefighting in Southern California as it provides support for fixed and rotary wing aircraft during the fire season each year.

Airtanker 16

Airtanker 5

Airtanker 22

During the still burning Silverado Wildfire, Shorealone Films photographer Matt Hartman was able to photograph the amazing aerial firefighting aircraft used to fight the flames, during their early morning ground operations before deploying to the fire.

Airtanker 33

Two DC-10s, (Tanker 911 and Tanker 912) a BAE 146-200, a C-130Q, two Lockheed P-2 Neptunes and a Rockwell Turbo Commander 690 “AirBoss” command and control aircraft were there ready to be dispatched from Airtanker base.

Airtanker 12

Airtanker 28

All images: Matt Hartman

 

Video of DC-10 Supertanker’s fire retardant drop on a mountain

DC10 Air Tanker fighting a fire on a mountain

A cool video shows the DC10 Air Tanker (known as “Supertanker”) performing a nose dive (and subsequent high-G load pull-up) to drop fire retardant over a mountain.

Note the “pathfinder” King Air flying ahead of the DC-10 to point the drop zone for the tanker.

 

[Photo] Ukrainian Antonov An-124 cargo visits NAF El Centro, California

An An-124 recently visited at Naval Air Facility (NAF) El Centro to load British Chinooks for their return to the UK.

On Aug. 14, an Antonov 124 of the “Antonov Design Bureau” (Ukraine’s state-owned company currently known as Antonov State Company), visited NAF El Centro, in Southern California. The huge cargo, departed the following day and flew to RAF Brize Norton via Detroit.

The An-124 has become something of a regular visitor to El Centro, moving helicopters from a number of NATO forces (such as British, Danish, Dutch and German) to the local base where they train in “hot and high” conditions prior to deployments to Afghanistan.

Actually, the Ukrainian company’s An-124 aircraft have been used to transport helicopters all around the world.

El Centro’s ready access to large ranges with desert and mountainous terrain (Chocolate Mountains and Yuma, AZ range) make it an ideal location for cost effective pre-deployment training.  Aircraft can depart El Centro and be on range within a matter of minutes making helicopter training particularly efficient.

AN124 El Centro side view

Todd Miller lives in MD, US where he is an Executive at a Sustainable Cement Technology Company in the USA. When not working, Todd is an avid photographer of military aircraft and content contributor.

 

 

No Panic: Airliners went missing in Libya pose little threat of 9/11 attack

Even though it’s not impossible, it would be at least difficult to successfully execute a 9/11-like suicide attack using one of the airliners allegedly missing in Libya.

In the last few days, media outlets all around the world have reported the news of the threat of a 9/11 type of attack posed by a certain number of civilian jet liners (“about a dozen”) seized by militias that took control of Tripoli airport.

A really interesting story published on NYCAviation has already raised some question about the amount of missing aircraft but what we are going to discuss here is the possibility to launch a suicide attack using one of the airplanes captured in Libya (provided any airliner is really available for such a terrorist action).

Even if a U.S. Department official is, quite obviously, a reliable source and, although a missing airplane is never a good news for intelligence agencies since September 11 2001, there are several things that must be considered to really evaluate the threat of a “renegade” aircraft used as a missile against a ground target.

First of all there’s the difficulty to actually launch the plane. Not easy at all.

“I agree the risks [of a missing plane] are there but I would be cautious in several regards:  aircraft condition, availability of actual pilots and airfield conditions, etc,” says Tom Meyer, who’s worked for over a decade in all areas of the airline’s operations with Top US Air Carrier.

In fact, the missing airliner must be hidden somewhere (an kept away from the indiscreet eyes of satellites and U.S. drones snooping on terrorist bases in the desert) but a difficult-to-find airport is quite unlikely an airport capable to serve an airliner.

“Airline Ground Operations will need to include:  Ground Power or APU [Auxiliary Power Unit) Availability, Fueling, Weight & Balance, FOD Free Ramp, Clear Taxiways and Runways…If any of the items is missing or done incorrectly, the whole scenario unravels.  Sorry, Airline operations are complex,” Meyer explains.

Ok, now let’s assume the terrorists know enough about aircraft servicing, airport ops, etc. manage to launch the plane. What’s next?
The aircraft, departed from a remote location, must fly towards its final “destination.” In order to reach the target without being engaged by the local air defense (if any) it will have to fly all (or at least most) of its route at very low-level, thus reducing a lot its range.

Even if a north bound route (towards Italy or a northwestern one towards Spain and France or northeastern one towards Greece or Turkey) would bring the plane closer to the most the rewarding targets, it would also expose the liner to the detection by coastal radar sites and NATO E-3 AWACS aircraft keeping an eye on the Mediterranean and North Africa.

So, a large aerial suicide attack is perhaps unlikely.

A limited attack, targeting a neighbouring nation (or Malta, that is still not too far from Libya and has no combat planes for the islands air defense) or a military base in North or Central Africa, is only a bit more feasible (once again, provided the plane can be launched) just because of the relatively shorter distances.

That said, we can’t completely rule out that a terrorist attack with civil planes can be carried out, as there are many unlikely (still not impossible) things that can be done to escape detection by radars, like flying in the shadow of another plane, but let’s stick to reality: a hijacked plane is, still today, a more serious threat even for the most prepared and well equipped air defense.

Image credit: via Malta Today

 

With U.S. airstrikes in progress airspace over Iraq has been closed to civilian flights

One of the busiest commercial routes went over Iraq. Until it was closed because of the U.S. air strikes against ISIS positions.

Even if the situation in Iraq was already quite difficult, with Iraqi gunships and attack planes striking ISIS terrorists around Mosul, it was not until Aug. 8 that the airspace over Iraq was banned to civil aircraft as a consequence of the first U.S. airstrikes in the country.

Until the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) banned all U.S. airlines (followed by British Airways and all the other major ones) from flying over Iraq because of the “hazardous situation” created by the armed conflict in the region, hundred commercial flights crossed each day the Iraqi airspace on their way between Europe and Asia and (vice versa), at high altitude, well above the reach of MANPADS (Man Portable Air Defense Systems) and the weapons known to be in the hands of the militants.

The following image, from Flightradar24.com, shows aircraft (those equipped with ADS-B transponder) crossing the airspace over Iraq on Aug. 8 (top) and Jul. 8 (bottom). It looks like U.S. flights are currently routing through Iranian airspace, that is considered safer than Iraqi one.

FR24 Iraq flight ban

Image credit: FR24.com