Paul Dunn's 2010 blogGAR Entries

JUL 29 2010
Miami Area Variety

With 24 hours free in Miami, I decided to visit a couple of airfields in the area, in the hope of finding some interesting aircraft. In the excellent company of my colleague Paul, our first visit was to Kendall-Tamiami Executive Airport, located in the southern suburbs of Miami.

At the airfield is the Wings Over Miami Museum. The location was previously the home of Kermit Weeks’ collection of aircraft, until the 1992 arrival of Hurricane Andrew devastated the museum and its exhibits. Although most of them were later restored, Weeks moved his collection to Polk County and founded the “Fantasy of Flight” museum.

A gap now existed for a museum in southern Florida, and in 2001 a group of local enthusiasts got together and founded the Wings Over Miami Air Museum, as a collection of mainly airworthy aircraft. On the day of our visit, the museum was actually closed, but director Walt Orth made us welcome anyway and we were able to look around the excellent collection.

Examples of the North American T-6/SNJ-6 are most common in the collection, with several aircraft in flying condition and a few undergoing restoration. Also of interest are a couple of Yak-52/CJ-6 trainers.

From a more modern era, the museum has a pair of Aero Vodochody jet trainers, an L-29 and an L-39. Most impressive aircraft in the hangar (albeit certainly not a flyer!) is the Grumman F-14 Tomcat. One of the museum’s trustees is Tomcat legend Dale “Snort” Snodgrass and he was instrumental in bringing one of the last F-14s in service to the museum. There is also a Consolidated PBY-5 Catalina on display, located on the ramp outside the hangar.

Also outside the hangar is a real workhorse – a DC-3 owned and operated by Atlantic Air Cargo. This company flies cargo services out of Opa Locka Airport using a pair of DC-3s. Company owner is Julio Castrillo who has over 12,000 hours on type! Julio and his son Robert live in the area so often perform maintenance on their aircraft there rather than at Opa Locka.

The museum is also home to a memorial to the 14 pilots and crew members killed during the ill fated Bay of Pigs invasion in 1961. During the operation, eight B-26 Invaders were used to provide air support. A total of 10 Cuban pilots and 4 CIA volunteers were lost during the operation, and they are commemorated by a smart memorial featuring an Invader restored into the colours of the “Liberation Air Force”.

An unusual aircraft at the airport was this An-26, registered in Venezuela.

Elsewhere on the airfield, a compound holds two former RAF Jet Provosts – a camouflage T.3 and a 1 FTS coloured T.5. Both look like they haven’t flown for some time.

Next stop on our road-trip was Opa Locka Airport, now rebranded as Opa Locka Executive Airport. There are a variety of operators and companies present on the airfield, engaged in all manner of activites. Many companies are involved in aircraft storage and reclamation, with DC-10s, 727s and DC-9s all being present.

Also present was a relatively new former Gulf Air 767.

Possibly the most interesting operator is SRX Aviation, who use several former Soviet built transports on freight services to destinations in South and Central America and the Caribbean. Some of the aircraft are registered in Uzbekistan – the An-12s and An-26s are certainly an unusual sight in the US!

Opa Locka is well known for its older types, especially propliners. Most of these were out of range for photography, especially given the heat haze, but a few were close enough to the fence to shoot. These included Julio’s other DC-3 (in silver) and a smart Convair C-131, one of several similar aircraft around the airfield.

Finally, an aircraft which looks like it is destined for a new operator – a former Gol (Brazil) Boeing 737.

Final destination of the day was an hour at Miami International, to photograph arrivals on runway 09. The light was unfavourable by the time we arrived, but there were plenty of interesting arrivals – this would certainly be a great location in the Winter.

Many of the arrivals onto 09 are cargo flights with 767s, MD-11s being common types along with an Atlas 747 and a new one for me – a LAN Chile 777F.

After tiring of a constant stream of American Airlines 737s and 757s, it was time to head back to the hotel to cool down with a cold beer!

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