Flying The Line

This post will be short in words with the goal of bringing a few of you aviation junkies a quick fix of some shots from the line. One of the things I love about flying is the opportunity to see all kinds of airplanes, facilities, and equipment and all kinds of weather. I’ve got dozens (hundreds?) of photos stored up from my adventures around the world, however, in keeping with the theme of this blog I’d like to present a few recent shots from the Caribbean.

(A note about this photo: at first glance, it would appear that this photo and the one on my header above were taken on the same day using the same camera. In fact, the shot used in the header was taken last August with my point & shoot Canon A630. The photo in today’s post was taken in March, a few days ago, with my Nikon D300 in very similar conditions using the same settings that I applied to the A630. The D300 shot is much more crisp, and I really like the highlight on the wing in addition to the excellent tonal qualities. I have to say, though, that for $200 the Canon A630 takes some really nice shots!)

The aircraft I’m working in/on these days is the venerable ATR-72. The ATR-72 is a twin-turboprop short-haul regional airliner built in France and Italy by ATR. It seats up to 66 passengers in a single-class configuration and is operated by a crew of 4: two pilots and two flight attendants.

Passengers are boarded using the rear door (which is rare for a passenger plane); the front door is used to load cargo. As a note of interest, Finnair ordered their ATR-72s with a front passenger door so that they could use the jet bridges at Helsinki-Vantaa airport.

A tail stand must be installed when passengers are boarding or disembarking to prevent the nose from coming off the ground when aft cargo is loaded. Nothing but funny fun fun on the ATR-72… but we love them. Usually.

Here’s my girlfriend Mary at sunrise on Nevis. Remember Nevis? Wait a minute… remember Mary?

I couldn’t resist a tail shot. It just looks nice. In fact, let me see if I can find another example of some nice tail…

Here’s a shot of the ATR tail with an edgy finish applied. I kinda like it… not my usual sunny, happy photo style.

And now for something completely different.

Can you spot anything about the landing gear on this LC-130 that seems a little out of place? SKIS! I couldn’t believe my eyes when I saw this unusual and somewhat rare plane touch down in front of us in San Juan. Luckily, I had my D300 in my hands and grabbed a quick shot.

The LC-130 Hercules with ski–wheels is used in Antarctica to supply inland stations and support field parties. By the early 1990s LC-130R machines, plus two of the older LC-130F, made up the USAP fleet of six ski–wheel transports. The aircraft are owned by NSF and were operated by the USN (VXE-6). The 109th TAG, NYANG, has four LC-130Hs of more recent vintage. Raytheon Systems Company had modified the Navy’s three remaining LC-130Rs to Air Force LC-130H standards.

The New York Air Guard’s 109th Airlift Wing, Schenectady, NY provides logistical support to the U.S. Antarctic Program, which is administered by the NSF. The 109th AW is the only organization in the world that flies the ski-equipped LC-130s, which are the only aircraft capable of landing at the South Pole at this time of year. There are only seven such aircraft in the world. The Air National Guard outfit has been flying people and supplies on its specially equipped planes to Arctic and Antarctic outposts since 1975.

The New York Air National Guard ski-equipped LC-130 unit inherited a historic responsibility in assuming the mission of airlift support for science in Antarctica when DoD and the National Science Foundation (NSF) signed a Memorandum of Agreement on March 26, 1998. The agreement, carrying signatures from senior representatives of the Department, the Air Force , the Navy , US Transportation Command, National Guard Bureau and the NSF, completed a three-year transition of program responsibility for LC-130 operations from the Navy to the 109th AW.

The agreement signing was the last in a series of events which complete the airlift transition. Ceremonies held at McMurdo Station, Antarctica, Christchurch, New Zealand and Port Hueneme, Calif., symbolically brought closure to Navy oversight over logistic air support on the Antarctica continent which began with Rear Adm. Richard E. Byrd’s Operation Deep Freeze in 1955.

The lack of commercial capability to provide the kind of ski-equipped, fixed-wing air support required by the US Antarctic Program provided no commercialization opportunities for this function. The Navy and National Science Foundation discussed this requirement with other government agencies. The Coast Guard considered taking on the mission as an extension of their current C-130 operations. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, which has a fleet of aircraft that support science, also considered the mission. The National Science Foundation encouraged a close look at the Air National Guard for potential “single-point management” of fixed wing logistic support for Antarctica. The Air National Guard had already been augmenting Navy operations in Antarctica since 1988 with use of their own aircraft, and they also have had a complementary role of LC-130 logistic support in the Arctic since 1975.

And that’s all I know about that. I sent a copy of this photo to the 109th, but they never wrote back to acknowledge receipt – they must be busier than I am.

No, this isn’t a vintage photo, although I couldn’t help converting it to black and white for effect. This is one of several Douglas DC-3 (C-47) aircraft operating from San Jan carrying cargo to the nearer islands. I love it every time they take off and land – sometimes our ramp slows to a crawl while everyone looks at these gorgeous planes from days gone by.

To round out this dose of aviation sweetness, here’s a shot of a Virgin Airbus A-340 taken with my 70-200mm f2.8 zoom. I did some research on the aircraft’s registration number (clearly visible in the full resolution photo), and if I am reading the info correctly this is the second A-340 ever made in production. There are relatively few photos of this ship posted online, as compared to some airplanes with hundreds of photos, so I was totally stoked to grab this shot.

IN my next post, we return to the island view of things. I do hope that those of you who enjoy aviation in particular found these pictures interesting – I’ll do another aviation post in the not-to-distant future.

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~ by John on March 18, 2008.

One Response to “Flying The Line”

  1. Actually, I did remember Mary and I immediately noticed that was her. You’ve taught us well, oh teacher.

    The shot of the tail that’s not your normal sunny shot is awesome, as are the last shot and the first one. My favorites!

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