Paul Filmer's 2011 blogGAR Entries

JAN 16 2011
Mojave and Edwards AFB

We drove in the afternoon and stayed the night near Mojave to get a good start in the morning. Of course when I say we drove, I mean my friend Richard drove while I did my best to not fall asleep.

Mojave Air and Space Port is home to many weird and wonderful projects and its airliner storage area, although the latter is now out of bounds from a photography standpoint on the bus tour the airport offers. This is due to a tour being told not to photograph a certain aircraft only for it to turn up in a magazine at a later date. Yeah, that twenty quid payment was worth spoiling the opportunities for future photographic opportunities.

We just hung out for a few hours to see what would fly and although the pickings were slim the quality was good. We only saw three aircraft fly and they all belonged to the National Test Pilots School. First up was an immaculate DH-104 Dove which is actually ex Sea Devon C.20 XJ349 and Channel Airways G-AMXW. She performed two flights while we were present and had all manner of probes and bumps presumably for measuring airflow. As well as a Beech 35 one of their fleet of MB-326 Impalas sourced from the South African Air Force took to the skies.

One other interesting aircraft that we were allowed on to the ramp to photograph was the Orbital Sciences L-1011-100 Tristar. This is used to launch Pegasus XL rockets which carry various satellites.

Onwards to the sprawling Edwards AFB where, again, you'll never know what to expect on any given day. We only had access to the 445 Flight Test Squadron ramp and, with the intense sun coupled with sun-shelters, photography would prove tricky. Apart from the expected white T-38Cs and "clown" F-16s there were many other F-16 variants including the Royal Danish Air Force F-16BM used for their JSF project. We were lucky to catch this flying later in the day. Also just off this ramp were the CH-46E Sea Knights belonging to US Marine Corps HMM-764 "Moonlight" squadron.

We were driven to the sunny side of the airfield to shoot the runway operations but unfortunately the northerly runway was closed for repairs and because of this we were not allowed as close to the southerly parallel due to ATC restrictions. This made shooting anything on the runway extremely difficult due to heat-haze. It was also very, very windy which made shooting with the 500mm seem like flying a kite!

Even so we did see some interesting movements; the NASA G-II "Halo" that is used as a target for the Airborne Laser Program which has replaced the KC-135 "Big Crow" airframes that have now been retired, and the RDanAF F-16 flew which gave us a nice opportunity to shoot this in the sun as opposed to backlit, before another couple of NASA aircraft landed.

First up was the first RQ-4 Global Hawk that I've seen fly followed later by N911NA which is a Boeing 747-100SR used to carry the Space Shuttle on its back. The SR version was built by Boeing exclusively for Japan Airliners for use on their high-cycle-to-flying-hour short-haul routes and only seven of this variant were built.

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