Monthly Archives: December 2014

Triangular mystery jets, Pilot Selfies, flying F-117s, Russian activities: 2014 through our top stories

The five top stories of The Aviationist provide the readers the opportunity to virtually review the year that is coming to an end.

Ordered chronologically, the following 5 posts got the most pageviews and comments among the +2,900 articles published on the site, and can be used to review year 2014, as they are those that got more interactions.

Obviously, we covered many more topics during this year, that saw us discussing China, war on ISIS, Iran, Syria, North Korea, Ukraine, the downing of MH17 and much more.

Please use the search feature or select the proper category/tag to read all what was written throughout the year.

1) “Selfie” of an F-16 pilot while firing a live Air-to-Air Missile

Mar. 3, 2014

Self-portrait photographs (nowadays known as “selfies“) have always been a must among fighter jocks and you can find thousands taken by military pilots in the most unusal flight conditions.

However, selfies taken while launching missiles are much more rare just because firing activities involving the launch of an air-to-air missile don’t take place too often.

Kudos to the Royal Danish Air Force for taking this really cool image.

By the way, the pilot depicted in the image wears a JHMCS (Joint Helmet Mounted Cueing System) a multi-role system that enhances pilot situational awareness and provides head-out control of aircraft targeting systems and sensors.

[Read here]

2) What if MH370 was (mistakenly or purposely) shot down?

Mar. 19, 2014

Since Mar. 7, when Boeing 777 9M-MRO flying from Kuala Lumpur has vanished enroute to Beijing, we have analysed all the possible scenarios that could explain the end of Malaysia Airlines MH370 flight.

With contradictory information released and denied on a daily basis, we can only update the list of theories and their likeliness.

None of the theories emerged so far seem to address all the mystery surrounding the plane and its 239 people on board: the theory that the aircraft suffered a smoke in the cockpit, does not explain why the pilots shut down the transponder while turning towards the nearest landing strip; the one about the suicide does not explain why the aircraft reportedly flew for 7 hours before eventually crashing somewhere. And so on.

These are just a few of the oddities you can find in any scenario drawn so far.

Regardless of the specific theories, there are some more things that are really hard to explain: for instance, it’s unclear how the MH370 managed to remain invisible to several air defense radars for so much time; the reason why Malaysian authorities did not declare until a couple of days ago that the last known position of the plane (known since the beginning) was over the Strait of Malacca, while some 100 aircraft and ships belonging to more than a dozen nations were involved in a massive search and rescue mission in the Gulf of Thailand.

Nor is it clear why Thai authorities waited 10 days before confirming that they had spotted a plane (most probably the Malaysia Airlines B777) flying westwards moments after MH370 had its transponder switched off.

In a previous post which listed all the “active scenarios”, we mentioned the (unlikely but not impossible) theory that MH370 could have been shot down.

Since then, we’ve received several emails and comments, and talked with a few other journalists who believe that, there are still some chances that the Malaysian Boeing 777 was shot down some time during its 7 hour flight.

[Read the rest here]

3) What’s this Mystery Plane spotted over Texas?

Mar. 28, 2014

The images you can see in this post were taken in the afternoon of Mar. 10, 2014. Steve Douglass and Dean Muskett, along with other fellow photographers were at Amarillo International Airport when they saw the contrails of three high flying aircraft.

Even though the aircraft were barely visible at distance, the photographers pointed their lenses at the unidentified planes, and took several shots.

As Douglass recalls in his blog, it was only when they reviewed the images that they noticed that the aircraft were not B-2s as they initially thought: “At one point the aircraft had banked and the trailing edge was quite clear. It wasn’t straight but had a slight curve, the aircraft was almost boomerang shaped.”

Indeed, an inquiry to Whiteman Air Force Base has ruled out the possibility that a flight of three B-2s was flying over Texas on Mar. 10.

Stealth expert Bill Sweetman and the rest of the AW&ST team have investigated the mystery aircraft sighting, coming to the conclusion that the photos show something real.

[Read the rest here]

4) These Photos Prove F-117 Stealth Jets Still Fly at Tonopah 6 years After Retirement

Oct. 3, 2014

The images in this post were shot on Sept. 30, at around 11.00AM, from Brainwash Butte. Although much distorted by the high temperature and distance, they clearly show an F-117 Nighthawk Stealth Jet operating at the Tonopah Test Range, in Nevada.

The aircraft reportedly flew on both Sept. 29 and 30.

Even though flights of the Black Jets have been documented a few times on video past its official retirement in 2008, these are the first images that prove the stealth plane, most probably two of them, since, according to the contributor who sent us the blurry images he shot from the hills east of TTR, the plane that flew on the 29th was in a different barn than the one flew on the 30th.

[Read the rest here]

5) German Typhoons have intercepted 7 Russian Air Force combat planes over the Baltic Sea today

Oct. 28, 2014

According to the Latvian military, on Oct. 28, the German Air Force Eurofighter jets on QRA (Quick Reaction Alert) at Amari, Estonia, to provide NATO Baltic Air Policing were scrambled to intercept seven Russian Air Force planes flying in international airspace over the Baltic Sea.

The German interceptors identified the Russian planes as a large package, made of attack planes and escort, which included 2x MiG-31 Foxhound, 2x Su-34 Fullback, 1x Su-27 Flanker and 2x Su-24 Fencer jets.

Regardless to whether the Russian aircraft were involved in one of the frequent training missions in the Baltics or were commuting to/from the Russian airfield in Kaliningrad oblast, the package on Oct 28 represents one of the largest “formations” intercepted by NATO fighter planes during the last couple of years.

[Read the rest here]

 

Would you let North Korea’s leader Kim Jong Un pilot your plane? Then watch him flying a regional jet

Footage released by Pyongyang shows North Korea’s Supreme Leader at the controls of a regional jet

Unlike his father Kim Jong-il, who was scared of flying after a helicopter crash in 1976, North Korean leader Kim Jong Un is not only flying his “Air Force One”, regularly visiting North Korean Air Force units, greeting first female fighter pilots, but he is also personally flying some aircraft (an Antonov 148 in this case).

This is what a documentary just released by the Regime seems to suggest.

The clip shows the 31-year old Supreme Leader sitting inside the cockpit, reviewing the checklist, then take off and eventually land (under the supervision of a real pilot).

H/T Guido Olimpio for the heads-up

 

This GoPro video will bring you the closest as you can get to the flight deck of a U.S. aircraft carrier during catapult launches

Fantastic footage of a modern U.S. aircraft carrier during blue water operations.

The following footage will bring aboard USS Dwight D. Eisenhower (CVN-69) nuclear-powered aircraft carrier during routine flight operations.

The video was recorded with a GoPro camera attached to the helmet of a Catapult Topside Petty Officer, whose job is to ensure the proper hook-up of the aircraft to the catapult while ensuring the safety of all personnel on the flight deck during launching operations.

It starts about one minute until launch, with the first launch taking place at around 1:14.

You can see several aircraft belonging to the CVW-7 including F/A-18C Legacy Hornets, F/A-18F Super Hornets (Rhinos) and the EA-6B Prowler.

The video was filmed in 2013: the “Ike” is currently undertaking a 14-month Drydocking Planned Incremental Availability at Norfolk Naval Shipyard in Portsmouth.

 

New Google Maps imagery shows 9 V-22 Osprey tilt-rotor aircraft at airbase in Kuwait

One of our readers has pointed an interesting detail he has found on Google Maps: the presence of a huge contingent of U.S. V-22 tilt-rotor aircraft in Kuwait.

At least twice in the last months, U.S. Osprey tilt-rotor aircraft have conducted missions in Syria or Iraq.

On Jul. 3, some V-22 aircraft were used to carry Delta Force commandos to a campsite in eastern Syria where ISIS militants were believed to hold American and other hostages (that had been moved by the time the commandos attacked the site).

On Aug. 13, V-22s deployed military advisers, Marines and Special Forces on Mount Sinjar to coordinate the evacuation of Yazidi refugees.

Besides their participation in these missions, little is known about the Osprey involvement in the war on Islamic State.

However, there are reasons to believe that V-22 are deployed in theater to play an active role in Operation Inherent Resolve: in fact, as pointed out by our reader Brian Ostrander, a “Google Maps fanatic,” at least 9 Ospreys were depicted on a parking apron at Ahmed al Jaber airbase, in Kuwait, on a satellite image dating back to the end of October.

Although the tiltrotors could have visited the Kuwaiti airport on a ferry flight to somewhere else, or may have just returned to their homebase by the time this article is published, it seems reasonable to believe that the airfield, one of the main hubs for several U.S. and allied aircraft involved in air strikes, is the main operating location of the V-22s and the ones clearly visible in the imagery represent the contingent of Ospreys deployed in the region to perform special tasks in Syria and/or Iraq.

The resolution of the image available on Google Maps or Google Earth prevents a clear identification of the variant: hence the aircraft can be either Marines MV-22s or Air Force’s CV-22s.

There are several reasons why such assets were (and, most probably, still are) deployed in Kuwait: they may be ready to conduct special operations, including infiltration and exfiltration missions, as those performed last summer, or they may be part of the forces tasked with Combat Search And Rescue (CSAR) missions in case one of the aircraft is either downed or crashes for a failure “behind the enemy lines” as happened to the Jordanian F-16 last week.

During the Air War in Libya, MV-22A Osprey from the USS Kearsarge (LHD-3) performed a Tactical Recovery of Aircraft and Personnel, or “TRAP” mission, in deep into the Libyan territory to rescue the aircrew of a U.S. Air Force F-15E Strike Eagle crashed during Operation Odyssey Dawn.

Noteworthy, the new Google Maps imagery shows several more aircraft, including Saudi Tornados, some F-5s, Mirage 2000s and (what looks like) Qatari Alpha Jets.

H/T Brian Ostrander for the heads-up

Image credit: Google Maps

 

These are the best videos of the Virgin Atlantic Boeing 747‬ emergency landing at Gatwick

A Virgin Atlantic Boeing 747-400 was forced to perform an emergency landing at London Gatwick Airport after main landing gear issue.

On Dec. 29, a Boeing 747-400, registration G-VROM, operating as flight VS43 from London Gatwick to Las Vegas, suffered a Main Landing Gear failure immediately after take off.

After two low passes and circling for a few hours over southern England dumping fuel, the Boeing 747 performed a safe, bumpy, landing at Gatwick, with the still retracted right outboard MLG, just before 16.00 GMT.

Here are the best videos of the mishap we’ve found online.

Another one, shot from the runway end.