Monthly Archives: February 2018

You Can Buy A RAF Tornado’s RB199 Turbofan Engine on eBay

If you have some free space at home, you might be interested in this item.

A Turbo Union RB199 engine, previously used in the Tornado jet (not clear which variant), is on sale on eBay here.

Listed as a Rolls Royce RB199 (actually, Turbo Union, a joint venture between three European aero-engine manufacturers: FiatAvio (now Avio), MTU Aero Engines and RR, produces the engine), the article is said to come straight from the MoD that deemed the jet engine in question as not airworthy and unservicable, even though complete.

Two RB199 engines power the Tornado multirole combat aircraft. 2,500 engines have been delivered since 1979 to the armed forces of Great Britain, Germany, Italy and Saudi Arabia accumulating close to 6.0 million engine flying hours. The RB199 was designed

“In order to meet the many different mission requirements of the Tornado, in particular extreme low-level missions, a three-shaft design with afterburner and thrust reverser was selected. The Digital Engine Control Unit (DECU) reduces the pilot’s workload during operation and supports on-condition maintenance,” a public datasheet says. “The fact that the RB199 is still a very modern combat engine with future growth potential is a confirmation of its advanced design. Modular construction allows damaged modules to be replaced within the minimum turnaround time, thus ensuring greater availability of the aircraft. Its unprecedented reliability has not only been demonstrated in hostile environmental conditions but also in combat. The most recent production standard, Mk105, powers the German ECR (Electronic Combat Reconnaissance) Tornado.”

A detail of the RB199 sold on ebay. (Image credit: eBay/GI JOE ARMY STORES)

The engine was also used in the EAP Demonstrator assembled at, and flown from, Warton in Lancashire, England, and the early prototype Eurofighter Typhoon aircraft, both types without thrust reversers.

At 6,500 GBP (about 9,000 USD), the 3.5 meter x 1 meter x 1.1 meter item seems to be a bargain; however, if you decided to acquire it, shipping would be a subject to extra cost.

The seller, GI Joe Army Stores, specializes in dealing with ex-MoD material – as a quick peek through his listings seems to suggest.

Following the imminent withdrawal of the Tornado jets, we may see more and more items like that listed on eBay. Some RB199s are on public display: one at the Royal Air Force Museum Cosford and Brooklands Museum Weybridge, and another one at the Morayvia Centre in Kinloss.

Image Credit: eBay/GI JOE ARMY STORES

Triangular Object Spotted “Dogfighting” With Two F-16s Inside Area 51

Photos shot from UFO Seekers allegedly show unknown, triangular object interacting with two U.S. Air Force F-16s. But it’s probably a bird.

On Feb. 15, 2017, UFO seekers Tim Doyle and Tracey Su were camping near Groom Lake to take pictures and film videos of activity in the skies inside Area 51. During their stay, they spotted a couple of F-16s dogfighting and snapped some shots at the jets. It wasn’t until they got back home, when they started reviewing the pictures, that they noticed a third unidentified aircraft that they described as a “triangular” object which appeared to be dogfighting the “Vipers” (as the F-16s are dubbed within the fighter pilots community).

The video below includes the pictures shot by Tracey (go to 19:45).

“We try to be a medium between the UFO Community and the Aviation Community. My dad worked at Plant 42 and other family had similar jobs. So people shouldn’t believe we would ever jump to advocating the existence of aliens or an alien craft at AREA 51. But that day we did catch a third craft, unfortunately we only used the photos in the video. All media from that trip was lost in a hard drive failure. In fact UFO Seekers lost over 5 months worth of media (6TB). It may have been a foreign aircraft as that is the primary purpose of the airspace at Groom Lake. Also I know the Air Force tests craft like the Polecat at the NTTR so it may have been an unmanned drone. But maybe, just maybe, it was something more,” said Tim in a message to The Aviationist.

The two F-16s flying close to the mysterious object (highlighted). This is a screen grab from UFO Seekers video filmed close to Area 51.

Here’s the mysterious object. Aircraft, drone or bird? (Screenshot from the UFO Seekers video).

The resolution of images in the video does not allow a proper identification of the object which might well be a drone (or a distant manned aircraft…such as an F-117 that was spotted flying over Nevada with accompanying F-16, in the recent past), still the story of the alleged interaction has had some exposure.

Assessing the size is difficult: even though the perspective might be a factor here, the object seems to be smaller than the F-16s, but probably much larger than a micro-drone as the bird-sized Perdix drones, 103 of those, launched from three F/A-18F Super Hornets, took part in one of the world’s largest micro-drone swarms over the skies of Naval Air Weapons Station China Lake, California on Oct. 25, 2016. That said, the aircraft could be a prototype of some new UAV (Unmanned Aerial Vehicle), maybe a UCAV (Unmanned Combat Aerial Vehicle), a weaponized drone.

Considered the position of the two fighters, rather than a dogfight, it seems that the jets were chasing the mysterious object rather than engaging it. Maybe they had just intercepted it in a simulated VID mission, or they were simply shadowing or filming a test flight. However, unlike what happened last year with the shots of the Su-27P dofighting with an F-16 inside Area 51, these new photos embedded in a YT video can’t provide a clear picture of the interaction.

Update: According to our friend Tyler Rogoway at The War Zone, the object is clearly a bird. “I literally see this all the time in frames. Birds catching thermals,” he says. “Viewing a bird somewhat edge on while soaring, that is exactly what they look like,” he said in a tweet to The Aviationist. To be honest I don’t see a bird here, but I may be wrong.

Update 2: Mick West, creator of Metabunk and famous debunker, has done an interesting analysis coming to the conclusion it was a bird. Here it is:

More or less the same analysis done by @AircraftSpots

Case closed? It seems so.

What’s your opinion? Let us know.

H/T @ufo_seekers

Take A Look At These Videos Of Blue Angels Solo Takeoff At El Centro During Winter Training

Blue Angels #6 performs very low take off from NAF El Centro.

The U.S. Navy Blue Angels, are preparing for the 2018 airshow flight demonstration season at their winter practice airfield at Naval Air Station El Centro, California.

And here are two amazing videos showing Lieutenant Brandon Hempler, Blue Angels #6, the Opposing Solo, taking off from runway 12 at NAF El Centro on Feb. 24, 2018, during a winter training sortie.

Several photographers were there and were buzzed by the F/A-18 Hornet performing a really low take off.
Enjoy.

Top image credit: screenshot from Norman Graf Aviation Photography FB page.

Reflecting on The Raptor: F-22 Demo Team Changes Pilots for 2018.

We Get a Rare Opportunity to Meet the Outgoing and Incoming F-22 Demo Pilots.

As the 2018 air show season rapidly approaches in the United States it occurs to me that I’ve written about military aviation in some capacity since I was a kid. Today aviation journalism is my job, and I’ll tell you it is among the best jobs in the world. This story is one example why.

Along with every other author who has written about flying, from Antoine de Saint-Exupéry to modern-day journalists like our Editor David Cenciotti, Tyler Rogoway of The Drive, Laura Seligman, Valerie Insinna and many others, aviation has also been a passion since I was a kid.

Covering aviation is long days of travel, waiting under a hot sun or in freezing weather, sitting in a canyon or a desert waiting for something to happen. It is getting to a flight demonstration or media event hours before anyone else and staying long after it’s over to catch that one story, that one photo, that no one else may have gotten. It’s also lots of research, fact checking, and covering your ass so, when millions of people read your story it’s as accurate as you can make it. Even then, it sometimes goes wrong.

But during the heavy lifting of packing, flying, waiting, hoping, getting smacked for printing an error, getting read and shared when you write a scoop, I still have the same boyhood enthusiasm for the miracle of flight. I also still have my boyhood admiration for the women and men who fix and who fly the aircraft we write about. They are humble heroes who are larger than life. Military aviation is one of very few vocations where a young person can earn so much responsibility so quickly.

Because of my boyhood excitement for aviation, I’m more than just a journalist covering a story, I’m also a fan. While I did take journalism in school and can put on a game face as a “reporter” asking tricky questions of a Public Affairs Officer, I’ll also ask a pilot or a crew chief for an autograph or a handshake, or take a photo with the women and men who do the jobs I write about. They’re heroes to me, and I remain an unapologetic fan.

This past summer during 2017 I was fortunate enough to be in the right place at the right time for a great story, a great transition into the 2018 air demonstration season and a great aviation moment. As is usually the case, Nellis AFB was where it happened.

The Aviation Nation Air & Space Expo at Nellis AFB outside Las Vegas, Nevada is among the greatest air shows in the world. Along with MAKS in Russia, the Royal International Air Tattoo in the UK, the Dubai Air Show and the China International Aviation & Aerospace Exhibition it is unique in both setting and displays. No other show on earth provides the insight into U.S. air power that Aviation Nation does. In November 2017, the show also celebrated the 70th anniversary of the U.S. Air Force.

On media day before the show opened to the public at Nellis, I got to meet both the outgoing F-22 Raptor Demo pilot and the new incoming F-22 Demo pilot. It was a unique chance to see a big transition in flight demonstration history.

For the past couple years, I’ve seen USAF Major Dan Dickinson, call sign “Rock”, fly the F-22 Raptor at flight demos around the country. Maj. Dickinson was the F-22 Aerial Demonstration Commander. He represented the USAF, the DoD and, at international airshows around the world, the face of our nation, at over 20 airshows each year. “Rock’s” team has 19 members responsible for getting the F-22 Raptor from show venue to show venue, being sure it is flight-ready and coordinating all the logistics from travel to maintenance to lodging. He also represents, at least by association, giant defense contractor Lockheed Martin, builders of the F-22 Raptor.

Outgoing USAF F-22 Demo Team pilot Major Dan “Rock” Dickinson taxis in on his last demo. (Photo: Tom Demerly/TheAviationist)

The Air Force estimates that every year a staggering 10 million spectators see Major Dan Dickinson fly his F-22 in person. According to statistics published by NBC Sports, that is more than double the amount of people who watched the NHL Stanley Cup Final on television. In addition to his work as the F-22 Demo Team leader and pilot, Maj. Dickinson is also an active F-22 instructor pilot for the 1st Operations Group at Langley AFB in Virginia.

Among many other fascinating facts about Major Dan Dickinson and the Air Force F-22 Demo Team, I find it remarkable that a Major in the USAF earns $111,760 USD according to a Google search, but an NHL player like Shea Weber of the Nashville Predators hockey team earns $14,000,000 USD in about the same time period, but with half the fan exposure as Maj. Dickinson gets even in NHL hockey’s biggest game series.

Unlike overpaid sport stars, if you want to talk to an American hero like Maj. Dickinson, all you have to do is walk up to him in the F-22 Demo Team tent at an airshow before or after his demonstration.

I always visit the F-22 Demo Team tent to see if Maj. Dickinson, his Crew Chief or one of the other members is there to have a chat, get a free photo or buy a patch that benefits an air force supported charity. Every time Maj. Dickinson and his team take the time to answer questions, shake hands and pose for another photo with me. I bet I have over a hundred photos with these guys, tons of autographed aircraft photos, a few profile prints of their aircraft signed by them and whatever other stuff I could collect. Every time Maj. Dickinson answers my questions with enthusiasm and interest.

I grab to opportunity for a couple autographs from F-22 Demo Pilot Dan Dickinson. (Photo: Jan Mack/TheAviationist)

“How much pressure does it take to move the sidestick?” “Have you ever worried about hypoxia?” “What is the longest time you’ve been in the cockpit?” “What was it like to take-off for the first time in an F-22?” “What is the plane like to fight with?” “What’s your favorite flight demo venue?” I never ran out of questions for Maj. Dickinson, and he always had enthusiastic answers as he signed one more autograph for me. By the way, we will provide his answers as part of a new article we will publish in the next weeks. “Rock” probably started thinking I was selling all the airshow schwag on eBay. But I wasn’t. If you visit our house the walls are covered with framed profile prints and aircraft photos, many of them from Nellis, many of them of Rock’s F-22 Raptor.

This year marks a big transition for the F-22 Demo Team. At the 2017 Aviation Nation Air & Space Expo at Nellis AFB. Major Dan “Rock” Dickinson would fly his final demo and Major Paul “Loco” Lopez would be there observing in his role as incoming F-22 demo pilot for the 2018 season and beyond.

Word on the tarmac is that Major “Loco” Lopez got his call sign because of his infectious enthusiasm for military aviation. When you meet him in person you see that is absolutely true. A big smile and a bigger handshake, Major Lopez initially seems too jovial to be a deadly Mach 2 predator stalking the skies for enemy aircraft and killing them with impunity from beyond visual range, but ask him about the technical performance of his F-22 Raptor and you get a sense of his seriousness about the aircraft and its mission. Major Lopez’s knowledge of the F-22, its capabilities and tactical role is encyclopedic. He discusses the aircraft as though he were one of the engineers who built it.

At Nellis I had the once in a lifetime opportunity to shake the hand of outgoing F-22 demo pilot, Major Dan “Rock” Dickinson, then turn to my left and immediately shake the hand of incoming pilot Major Paul “Loco” Lopez. It was living aviation history.

A moment in airshow history: outgoing F-22 demo pilot Major Dan “Rock” Dickinson on the left, the author in the center, and incoming 2018 F-22 demo pilot Major Paul “Loco” Lopez on the right. (Photo: Jan Mack/TheAviationist)

New incoming demo pilot U.S. Air Force Major Paul Lopez, call sign “Loco”, completed his certification of capabilities as a demo team pilot at Joint Base Langley-Eustis in Virginia on December 18, 2017. He flies his first public demo on March 17, 2018 at Marine Corps Air Station Yuma, Arizona.

Since the schedule at the 2018 Yuma Air Show next month does not include one of the major U.S. military demo teams, The Navy’s Blue Angels or the Air Force Thunderbirds, Major Lopez’s solo demonstration flight of the F-22 along with his Heritage Flight formation with a North American P-51 Mustang of WWII fame, will be one of the headlining demos along with the civilian Patriot’s Jet Team and a U.S. Marine Corps F-35B demo.

According to an official public affairs release from the U.S. Air Force, Major Paul “Loco” Lopez’s 13-member F-22 Demo Team for 2018 will showcase the fifth-generation aircraft through 25 flight demonstrations, including solo displays and Heritage Flights, at 21 locations around the country, as well as international demos in Santiago, Chile and Alberta, Canada. If you get the opportunity to see Major Lopez’s flight demo or Heritage Flight at any of the scheduled shows, you’ll be witness to a chapter in aviation history as his first year flying F-22 demos begins in 2018.

Check Out These Amazing Photos Taken By A U-2 Pilot At The Edge Of Space

This is the panorama you get from the cockpit of a legendary U-2 Dragon Lady aircraft.

Ross Franquemont is a U-2 pilot and instructor at the 1st Reconnaissance Squadron, based at Beale Air Force Base, California. Fortunately for the rest of the world, he is also a great photographer. In fact, the incredible images you can find in this post were taken by Ross during missions flown at high altitude (something around 70,000 feet) in the Dragon Lady aircraft.

If you want to learn more about the iconic spyplane click here to read our recent article or use the search button on the right hand side of the site (type U-2 and find all the stories we have published on the U-2). Meanwhile, enjoy this unbelievable collection of photographs taken at the edge of space that Ross has allowed us to share with our readers.

Taking off from Beale AFB (All images credit: Ross Franquemont)

California as seen from the cockpit of a U-2.

Front view, heading to the San Francisco Bay.

With a flag inside the cockpit.

To survive in the thin atmosphere where the Dragon Lady operates, pilots wear pressurized space suits.

Day to night the dividing line called the terminator can be seen in the upper right.

Ross shot also a composite image of the Aug. 21, 2017 eclipse.

Taken from the back cockpit of a TU-2S. You can see the student pilot in the front cockpit using a red light.

San Francisco and the Golden Gate bridge.

Panorama selfie!

Sacramento area at night.

Lake Tahoe at the border between California and Nevada.

San Jose and San Francisco and the Bay.

Ross brings his sons toys on some sorties. Not only do they serve as mascots, they are also used to protect his camera.

Image credit: Ross Franquemont