Category Archives: Aviation

Boeing 747-400 on a DoD mission lands at Poznan airport for the first time in history, bringing 300 US troops to Poland.

An Atlas Air Boeing 747-400 on “a military passenger charter flight” for the U.S. Defense Department’s (DoD) landed for the first time at the Polish airport of Poznan.

An Atlas Air B747, operating for the Pentagon, was used to transport more than 300 US soldiers to Poznan, in western Poland, on Jan. 11, 2017.

The soldiers were then transported to Żagań, Świętoszów, Skwierzyna and Bolesławiec from Poznan by buses, while the jet later flew to Wrocław, transporting some of the troops to an alternate destination.

Noteworthy, this was the very first time that the iconic Boeing’s airliner landed at the Poznan Ławica Airport.

According to the soldiers speaking to the press, the weather in Poland now is similar to the one in Colorado, except for more humidity and milder winds.

Originally, the Jumbo Jet was to land in Poznan (flying from Colorado Springs) on midday, however, due to bad weather it arrived at the Polish airport (with a stopover in Frankfurt) around 4.50 AM at night.

The troop transport carried out by the Atlast Air, one of the largest carriers of air cargo for the U.S. military, is part of Operation Atlantic Resolve, whose aim is to provide support and reinforcement on the NATO Eastern Flank threatened by Russia since the Ukrainian crisis.

The U.S. units deployed to Poland include medics and CRBN specialists, as well as the communications experts.

The Aviationist had a chance to be at the Ławica airport in Poznan at the night of the Boeing’s arrival, which has been possible thanks to the Airport’s marketing team. Many thanks go to Witold Łożyński, who hosted us at the departures.


Image credit: Jacek Siminski

You can track U.S. Navy private contractor dogfights online

Flightradar24 lets you track ATAC’s fleet of private contractor aggressors that fly out of NAS Point Mugu and NAS Fallon.

Whilst most of the interesting aircraft (namely fighters and attack planes as Special Ops platforms are still there) are hidden on Flightradar24.com, the popular online tracking system still provides the opportunity to follow ATAC (Airborne Tactical Advantage Company) aggressors flying tactical flight training missions for U.S. Navy, Air Force and Air National Guard assets.

Indeed, as pointed out by Bob Cheatham, one of our avid followers from California, most of ATAC’s jets can be tracked as they practice dogfights almost daily off San Diego, inside the Naval Air Warfare Center Weapons Division-managed Point Mugu Sea Range that features 36,000 square miles of controlled sea and airspace, and allows for testing in a real-world environment.

ATAC’s Hawker Hunter flying a mission off San Diego. (FR24 screenshot courtesy of Bob Cheatham)

“Growing up in the 70s & 80s, I was a huge fan of Pt. Mugu’s VX-4 Evaluators (F-4 & F-14s), so now I find it interesting to see most of these maneuvers passed on to a civilian contractor that actually shows up in the clear on ADS-B!” Cheatham explained in an email to The Aviationist.

N328AX is an ATAC’s Hawker Hunter F.58 formerly belonging to the Swiss Air Force (FR24 screenshot courtesy of Bob Cheatham).

“Using the N-registration alerts on FR24, I track practice dogfights almost daily off San Diego between ATAC‘s Hunters & Kfirs (and who knows who else that isn’t on ADS-B?!) Now that I’ve programmed alerts tracking most of their fleet, I’m also seeing missions in the Atlantic off South Carolina & Florida too.”

IAI Kfir mission (FR24 screenshot courtesy of Bob Cheatham)

ATAC, acquired in July 2016 by Textron Inc.’s new Textron Airborne Solutions company, has been performing air-to-ship, air-to-air and research & development missions in support of DoD for the last 20 years using a fleet of fast jets that includes 6x IAI Kfir C2, 2x L-39ZA Albatros and several Hawker Hunters.

The company provides advanced Adversary support at all levels of the US Navy’s air-to-air training programs, from Fleet Replacement Squadrons to the Navy’s graduate level “TOPGUN” program.

Indeed, the ATAC’s Kfir can be often spotted at NAS Fallon (where the top shot was taken by aviation photographer Kedar Karmarkar): if you look for one of the Israeli jet’s serial numbers (for instance, N402AX) in FR24’s database, you’ll find several flights of the supersonic fighter at the Naval Fighter Weapons School in Nevada.

A Kfir from NAS Fallon. Note that part of the track is outside of FR24 coverage.

But adversary training at Point Mugu and the Top Gun school at NAS Fallon are not the only activities ATAC jets carry out.

According to the company’s website “ATAC also trains the U.S. Air Force, specifically in the European theater supporting the United States Air Forces, Europe (USAFE) with JTAC Training, as well as CONUS F-15 Operational Readiness Evaluations, “Red Flag/Northern Edge” exercises, and has been entrusted to provide support for Air Force F-22 Raptor crews.”

ATAC is not the only company to provide live Red Air aggressor training services for the U.S Air Force and U.S. Navy: Draken International; and Discovery Air Defence Services, a subsidiary of Discovery Air, are also regularly awarded contracts to perform such services.

Top image credit: Kedar Karmarkar

 

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Ultimate Aviation Gift? A Ride With The Baltic Bees Jet Team

What holiday gift do you get the aviation fan that has everything? A ride with an aerobatic jet team!

The Latvian aerobatic jet demonstration team, The Baltic Bees are an impressive private jet team, operating six L-39’s flown by pilots with combined civilian and military jet experience including two pilots with time in MiG-21’s and one pilot named “Rob” who, according to their website, lists “U.S. Air Force Academy” as his education.

The team started in 2008 and added aircraft until they reached their current six-ship formation. A review of their official videos show they maintain some impressively precise close-formation aerobatics and sensational low altitude maneuvers along with dramatic opposing passes seen by the top military jet teams.

Even the dark-blue and yellow striped livery of the aircraft is well conceived for visibility during most demonstration weather conditions and makes for good photography from the ground.

What makes the Baltic Bees particularly interesting these days is the fact that they sell a 20-minute aerobatic ride in their Aero-Vodochody L-39C Albatross single engine, subsonic light-attack/trainer jets for about €1,500.00 Euros (1,550 USD or  1,261.00 GBP.)

The package includes a 40-minute ground school, and then you’ll suit-up, strap-in and go for a ride with the jet team.

According to the team’s website, “[The] Flight starts with simple maneuvers with increasing difficulties during the flight. You will be given opportunity to fly the airplane (emphasis added) under supervision of our pilot-instructor.”

The charmingly novel description of the flight program on their little website leaves the impression that the program may be somewhat… “open-ended” and, for a few extra dollars, pounds or euros perhaps you may be able to push the envelope a little more if you have the stomach for it, safety allowing, of course.

The site goes on to say they offer a video of your flight, clearly a must-have for such an occasion, and that, “Photos by the airplane before and after are free!”

The offer is surprisingly reasonable considering getting a ride with any jet demonstration team as a media observer, VIP or even paid guest is extremely difficult. In the U.S. the civilian jet demonstration team The Patriots, also operating the Aero L-39, show no such specific offer on their website.

The Breitling Jet Team of Dijon, France, another private jet demo team sponsored by the aviation specialty watchmaker Breitling and also flying the popular Aero L-39 offers no such “pay to fly” program.

The Breitling team does provide media and celebrity rides for publicity and brand promotion.

During their recent 2016 U.S. airshow tour it was tricky for media to arrange flights in advance with the Breitling team.

Traditionally only mainstream media personalities, sports or entertainment stars and local VIP’s could score a coveted ride with large military jet teams like the U.S. Air Force Thunderbirds and U.S. Navy Blue Angels. When you consider it costs up to $24,400 USD per hour to fly a Blue Angels F/A-18 according to IHS Jane’s Defense, albeit in a much different type of aircraft, the $1,500 USD ride with the Baltic Bees seems like an incredible bargain.

Prospective passengers with the Baltic Bees are invited to fly with them from their base at Jūrmala airport about 60 kilometers from the capital city of Riga, Latvia on the picturesque Gulf of Riga. If you’re interested you can contact the team on their website at www.balticbees.com.

And, if you book a flight, tell them The Aviationist sent you!

Image credit: Filip Modrzejewski / Foto Poork

 

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Watch an Etihad Airbus 380 fly in formation with the Al Fursan aerobatic display team over Abu Dhabi

The UAE Air Force aerobatic display team formed up with an Etihad Airways A380 for the 2016 Formula 1 Abu Dhabi Grand Prix.

On Nov. 27, an Etihad Airways A380 performed the traditional pre-Grand Prix race flypast in formation with the seven Aermacchi MB-339 jets of the Al Fursan (The Knights) display team.

The following footage, filmed from both inside the UAE AF display team jets and the civilian “superjumbo” show the amazing pass conducted by the unusual formation at dusk.

The Al Fursan team was formed in 2010 and made its first appearance with a simple fly-by with 4 MB-339s at the graduation ceremony at the Khalifa Bin Zayed Air College on Jan. 20, 2010. In July the same year, eight pilots moved to Italy to start training under the supervision of the Frecce Tricolori of the Italian Air Force, world’s largest display team based at Rivolto, and flying the same kind of aircraft. The training course ended in 2011.

The team made its first public aerobatic demonstration on Nov. 13, 2011, during the opening day of the Dubai Air Show.

Nowadays the Al Fursan team is equipped with 10 aircraft, four of those come from the 61° Stormo (Wing) of the Italian Air Force, the Flight School based at Lecce Galatina.

The Emirates MB-339As are painted in black, gold, white, red and green, and are equipped with smoke generators that produce red, green white and black smoke, the same colors of the UAE National flag.

By the way, the video provides also a glimpse of the backseat where you can see a dummy mascotte strapped to the ejection seat….

 

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Amazing video shows three Jetmen fly in formation with the Patrouille de France display team

The three Jetmen Yves Rossy, Vincent Reffet and Fred Fugen flew together with the Patrouille de France in an unprecedented aerial choreography.

Little more than one year ago, Jetman Dubai flew in formation with an Airbus A380 over Dubai during a special publicity event organised by Emirates Airlines.

In October 2016, the three jetpack-equipped pilots formed up with the 8 Alpha Jets of the Patrouille de France, the French Air Force aerobatic display team and flew together at an altitude of 4,000 ft (1,200 m) and a speed of 140 knots (260 km/h).

Although it may seem an easy or random task, such formation flying requires much preparation in order to reduce turbulence and consequent instability.

Here below you can watch the rather unusual men-aircraft formation.

Image credit: © Airborne FilmsJetman

In 2011, Jetman Yves Rossy flew in formation with the Breitling Jet Team.