Monthly Archives: July 2017

New U.S. Air Force F-16 With Centennial Tail Flash Unveiled In South Korea

A New Special Colored F-16 From The 36th FS Flying Fiends Was Unveiled At Osan Air Base, 50 miles south of the DMZ.

The 36th Fighting Squadron “Flying Fiends”, belonging to the 51st Fighting Wing, is one of the U.S. Air Force squadrons located closer to North Korea: based at Osan Air Base, South Korea, about 50 miles south of the Demilitarized Zone that separates North and South Korea, the squadron and its F-16s are on constant alert status.

“Being a Flying Fiend means to be a part of a legacy of more than 100 years of combat aviation. We’ve been involved in every major conflict from the 20th century: from World War I to WWII, the Korean War, the Vietnam War and about 36 years of alert readiness on the Korean peninsula,” said Capt. Wayne Mowery, 36th Fighter Squadron jet fighter pilot.

On Jul. 21, 2017, one week before North Korea tested a Hwasong-14 ICBM (Intercontinental Ballistic Missile), the 36th FS unveiled a newly refurbished F-16 Fighting Falcon during a Tail Flash ceremony at Osan AB.

The F-16 was brought back to life by members from the 51st Maintenance Squadron Corrosion Control Shop repairing and repainting its tail.

“Basically this was a clean slate, we had to sand everything down on this plane, all the old paint and [install] a new tail flash that was custom made,” said U.S. Air Force Senior Airman William Williams, 51st MXS sheet metal and corrosion technician in a public release.

“What we see in the tail flash is the combination of two distinctive histories. The red striped tail flash represents the history of the fabulous Flying Fiends. The tail flash specifically became famous during the Korean War as we flew with our red striped tail flash on our F-80 Shooting Stars and our F-86 Sabres,” said Mowery. “Underneath the red stripes you see the checkered tail design and that is the history of the 51st Fighter Wing, which we officially became a part of in 1974.”

The special color F-16, that flew ahead of the official Tail Flash ceremony, will probably take part in one of the next “Elephant Walk” a kind of exercise that is particularly frequent in South Korea where local-based U.S. Air Force jets (often alongside Republic of Korea Air Force planes) periodically stage such “collective shows of force” in response to North Korea’s aggressive posture and threats. Indeed, Osan is considered a key American facility in the region and among the targets of Pyongyang in case of war with the South.

The 36th Fighter Squadron Flying Fiends Centennial F-16 Fighting Falcon sits after receiving fresh paint in the corrosion shop at Osan Air Base, Republic of Korea, June 21, 2017. The 51st Maintenance Squadron’s Corrosion Control Team painted the jet in honor of the 36th FS’s 100 years of service to the United States. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Alex Fox Echols III)

 

Here Are The Highlights Of Royal International Air Tattoo 2017

Several Interesting Aircraft Took Part In This Year’s Royal International Air Tattoo (RIAT).

Held at RAF Fairford, on Jul. 14-16, RIAT 2017 brought to the UK a wide variety of interesting aircraft from around the world. Among them, the Ukrainian Air Force Su-27 Flanker, the F-22 Raptor, the Italian special colored Tornado, the Thunderbirds demo team as well as the B-2 Spirit stealth bomber, escorted by two F-15Cs, on a Global Power sortie.

The images in this post were taken by The Aviationist’s contributor Alessandro Fucito.

The Italian Air Force Tornado A-200A CSX7041/RS-01 of the air arm’s Reparto Sperimentale Volo (flight test centre) was awarded the prize for best livery.

The Boeing B-17F Flying Fortress G-BEDF (124485/DF-A) of the B-17 Preservation Trust.

Straight from Whiteman Air Force Base, Missouri, the B-2 Spirit from Air Force Global Strike Command flew over RAF Fairford flanked by two F-15C Eagle jets.

A Boeing KC-135R Stratotanker of the 100th ARW from RAF Mildenhall flying with the extended “boom”.

The C-130J-30 Hercules 08-8602/RS from the 37th Airlift Squadron, 86th Airlift Wing, United States Air Forces in Europe, Ramstein Air Base, Germany.

A three-ship formation of 2x F-15Cs and 1x F-15E from RAF Lakenhath 48th FW.

Taking part in the 70th Anniversary flypast there were also these F-16CJs belonging to the 480th FS from Spangdahlem, Germany, temporarily deployed to RAF Lakenheath.

The F-22 flying alongside the P-51B Mustang. Maj Dan ‘Rock’ Dickinson of the US Air Force’s 1st Fighter Wing at Langley Air Force Base, Virginia, was awarded the Paul Bowen Trophy, presented in memory of Royal International Air Tattoo co-founder Paul Bowen, for the best jet demonstration.

The Ukrainian Air Force brought a pair of Su-27 Flankers, supported by an Ilyushin Il-76 cargo aircraft. The single seater performed a stunning aerial display.

The Lockheed U-2 “Dragon Lady” took also part in RIAT 2017. Interestingly, the chase car used by the ISR (Intelligence Surveillance Reconnaissance) aircraft was Tesla chase car instead of the Chevrolet Camaro typically used for this task.

The Thunderbirds performed a flyby along with the RAF Red Arrows. This year the USAF demo team, escorted by two F-22s, also took part in the Bastille Day flypast over Paris, France.

A U.S. Navy Boeing P-8A Poseidon. The aircraft will soon serve in the UK as next MPA (Maritime Patrol Aircraft).

Couteau Delta, made by two Mirage 2000Ds of the French Air Force was one of the highlights of this year’s RIAT. The team included a Mirage painted in a desert scheme presented at the Base Aérienne 133 Nancy-Ochey, home of the EC3/3 Ardennes, on Mar. 1, 2017, to celebrate the 30th anniversary of the air raid against a Libyan air defense radar at Ouadi Doum, Chad.

The Thunderbirds over the skies of RAF Fairford. The team suffered an incident when a two-seater flipped over after landing at Dayton International Airport in Ohio on Jun. 23.

Image credit: Alessandro Fucito

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Beautiful Video of The Only Two Flying B-29s Together For The First Time

First B-29 Formation in Over 50 Years Gets Airborne at Oshkosh, Wisconsin.

For the first time since the early 1960’s when they were retired from U.S. Air Force service, two Boeing B-29 Superfortress heavy bombers flew together in formation at the AirVenture Airshow in Oshkosh, Wisconsin.

The two aircraft, “Fifi”, aircraft number N529B and “Doc”, aircraft N69972, took to the air in formation at Oshkosh on Tuesday of this week. They were accompanied by a camera aircraft and a B-25 Mitchell twin-engine medium bomber.

One of thousands of aviation enthusiasts and pilots at Oshkosh who witnessed the first formation flight, Ethan Jones, told TheAviationist.com, “It was jaw dropping. Being able to witness this flight was a moment many have been waiting for.” Jones traveled across the U.S. along with his wife for AirVenture. “We wanted to be surrounded with like-minded people for a week and see why they call EAA AirVenture Oshkosh ‘The Greatest Aviation Celebration’”.

Both of the B-29’s in Tuesday’s historic “reunion” flight have fascinating histories.

The B-29 aircraft number N529B named “Fifi” has been an attraction at airshows in the U.S. for a number of years. “Fifi” was purchased from surplus in 1971 and flew again for the first time in August of that year. It took another three years to restore her to certified flight status. In 2006 “Fifi” was grounded to begin replacement of her historically problematic Wright R-3350 Cyclone engines. Throughout the operational history of the B-29 the engines required frequent maintenance and were prone to problems including fires. “Fifi” received new engines pieced together from more advanced versions of the R-3350 over three years finishing up in 2010. The re-engining project cost an estimated $3 million USD. She returned to flight following the re-engining and has been an airshow headliner ever since.

B-29 aircraft number N69972, named “Doc”, is the newer arrival to the only two flying B-29’s in the world. “Doc” is from Boeing’s Wichita, Kansas factory and was built in 1944. He was never flown in combat. The aircraft was purchased from an aviation museum by a private non-profit in 2013. The non-profit returned the aircraft to flight status on July 17, 2016 when it made its first flight in 60 years. Prior to his purchase and restoration “Doc” had sat in outdoor desert storage on the way to being used as a target for years.

The B-29 Superfortress made history as the only aircraft to deliver operational nuclear strikes. Two B-29’s, the “Enola Gay” and “Bock’s Car” dropped single nuclear weapons on Japanese targets Hiroshima and Nagasaki on August 6 and August 9, 1945 toward the conclusion of WWII. Both of those nuclear strike aircraft are preserved in museums. The nuclear attacks were intended to force Japan to surrender and avoid a U.S. invasion of Japanese islands that was projected to result in over a half million casualties according to U.S. estimates at the time.

The B-29 Superfortress featured major technical innovations including pressurized crew compartments and a remotely controlled defensive gun system. A pressurized tunnel ran from the forward section of the aircraft to the aft section over the bomb bay. Unlike the Boeing B-17 Flying Fortress, its predecessor, the B-29 Superfortress uses a modern, heavy-duty tricycle landing gear system.

The eight-day Air Venture airshow at Oshkosh concludes this weekend. “Fifi” and “Doc” are scheduled to fly one more demonstration sortie together at the show before they resume their individual airshow appearances for the rest of the season.

The B-29 “Fifi” was previously the only flying example. She was joined over Oshkosh by the more recently airworthy “Doc” for the first time this week. (Photo: Tom Demerly/TheAviationist.com)

Top image: Top aviation photographer Scott Slocum captured this remarkable portrait of “Fifi” and “Doc”, the only flying B-29’s in the world, in formation for the first time for EAA – The Spirit of Aviation. (Credit: EAA/Scott Slocum)

 

Commercial Pilot Catches Remarkable Photos of Alleged Secret Chinese Anti-Missile Test

Alleged Chinese ABM Test Coincides with North Korean Ballistic Missile Test.

A commercial pilot flying a Cargolux 747 from Hong Kong to Baku has shot photos of what is believed to be a secret Chinese anti-ballistic missile test.

Flying over the Himalayas on July 22nd the flight crew saw a series of unusual lights and vapor trails climb into the night sky. Photographer, blogger and commercial pilot Christiaan van Heijst of the Netherlands shot the photos seen here. They were posted to his own blog, JPCVANHEIJST.COM

The alleged Chinese test is noteworthy because it is so close to the North Korean ballistic missile test over the Pacific confirmed by the United States today. China has not commented on the photos or verified any testing operations.

“What started unexpectedly with an unusual bright spot on the horizon quickly changed into a droplet-shaped bubble that rapidly grew in size and altitude.” First Officer Van Heijst wrote on his own personal blog published today.

Normally missile tests and space launches are well documented in international NOTAMs or “Notices To Airmen” via a number of media outlets used by commercial and military flight crews and air traffic control. It is important information since it not only avoids the extremely remote possibility that an aircraft may be hit by part of a vehicle used in a launch test

“It came as a total surprise for us and the only thing we found in the NOTAMs for our route was a ‘temporarily restricted airspace’ with a 100km radius somewhere south of Urumqi in north-west China with no mention of the nature of the closure, let alone a possible rocket/missile launch.”

One French language media outlet, EastPendulum.com, reported that the launch photographed by First Officer Van Heijst may have been a test of the Chinese Dong-Feng-21 or DF-21, an Intermediate Range Ballistic Missile (IRBM).

One Chinese website, “liuqiankktt.blog.163.com”, showed additional photos of the event from the ground. The images are consistent with the appearance of a launch vehicle test.

This photo of the test was shot by a Chinese blogger from the ground. (Photo: liuqiankktt.com)

Until China confirms the specifics of the launch or other intelligence outlets provide more detailed analysis it will difficult to understand exactly what happened over China and what its purpose was.

First Officer Christiaan Van Heijst went on to write on his blog:

“The entire event took no more than 12 minutes, from first spotting the bright light to the last dissipating glowing spots in the sky. My knowledge of hypersonic shock waves and the behavior of exhaust gasses in the upper atmosphere is extremely limited, but looking at the photos it seems to me that there have been two rocket stages burning after each other in succession. Taking into account that the Chinese suffered a catastrophic launch of a Long March 5 exactly 3 weeks earlier, it might be logical to assume this was a test-flight of another rocket in a relatively remote area of China with little to no witnesses. Except a Dutch pilot and a camera that they might not have counted on.”

We do know that Cargolux First Officer Christiaan Van Heijst’s photos of the event are truly remarkable and his reporting on the event is greatly appreciated.

Top image credit: Christiaan Van Heijst

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Sea Vixen Future In Question Following Analysis of Belly Landing Damage

Inspectors Suggest Restoration After Belly Landing Will Be Extensive.

The Royal Navy Heritage website Navy Wings has announced the status of repairs and prospects for restoration of their De Havilland DH.110 Sea Vixen, XP924 G-CVIX “Foxy Lady” following its emergency wheels-up landing at Yeovilton, UK, on May 27.

As reported by The Aviationist with both video and photos by photographer Scott Dabinett, “Foxy Lady” sustained damage during the emergency landing. An analysis of the damage to components and airframe reveal that, unfortunately, “Foxy Lady” is unlikely to be in the air any time soon.

Emergency crews respond to the Sea Vixen belly-landing. (Photo: BBC)

On Jul. 25 Navy Wings editors wrote, “We have now suspended the aircraft from maintenance procedures while we continue to investigate plans for complete restoration.”

That the routine flying maintenance routine has been suspended is bad news as it suggests there is no capability to get the Sea Vixen airworthy during the remainder of the airshow season. However, the statement about investigating plans for complete restoration is hopeful.

Key to the restoration and return to flight operations of the Sea Vixen is some reorganization of roles for key personnel within the Royal Navy Heritage organization. Chief Engineer Brian Johnstone, who was originally intending to retire from his role at Royal Navy Heritage, will remain with the project as a consultant. He will advise the new Chief Engineer, Mr. Kevin Bugg, in his new role as Chief Engineer of the Sea Vixen.

Meanwhile, Sea Vixen demonstration pilot Cdr. Simon Hargreaves OBE, Royal Navy Reserves, has been awarded the “Green Endorsement” commendation for his role in the controlled belly landing in the Sea Vixen on May 27. Hargreaves airmanship certainly minimized damage to the aircraft as it landed without landing gear. Fleet Air Arm, Rear Admiral Keith Blount OBE, cited Hargreaves for exceptional skill in the incident.

Demo pilot Cdr. Simon Hargreaves, OBE, awarded the Green Endorsement award for airmanship in his emergency landing of the Sea Vixen. (Photo: Navy Wings)

Navy Wings is an organization that helps maintain up to fourteen different historic aircraft through their sub-organizations. In addition to the Sea Vixen they include a Supermarine Spitfire Mk. XV currently undergoing restoration and slated to fly in 2018 along with two Sea Fury aircraft, one undergoing ground testing and one in restoration.

Top image credit: Navy Wings