Seven years ago…
Hello from Mars!
Mate-De-mate, Mojave, and Mystery
Flying in California was extremely easy. Not only was the weather sunny and perfect for flying much of the year, but also pilots eager and ready for an opportunity to go flying. Most GA airports had restaurants on the field for that coveted ham/veg burger. There were ample events such as airport days, air shows, hanger parties, monthly pilot group meetings, hosting of events such photo rallies, air races, poker runs, safety seminars, and many more. One of the events that I really looked forward to after obtaining my PPL was the Southwest Section 99s meetings.
Held in Spring and Fall, the events spanned from Thursday through Sunday, hosted at locations with plenty of activities to attract large groups of pilots and always fun to meet and interact with other pilots. Southwest Section comprises of California, Nevada, Utah, Arizona and Hawaii, with more than 1600 members and 57 chapters. Section meetings are typically hosted by chapters and in the fall of 2003, the meeting was hosted by the Antelope Valley 99s based at Lancaster’s William J Fox (WJF) airport.
Ever enthusiastic, Grace and I set off for Lancaster for our second attendance at a section meeting after our very exciting experience at Columbia. Friday was a busy day with a trip out to NASA Dryden and Edwards Air Force Base. First half of the morning was spent at NASA Dryden viewing the latest research vehicles such as the heavily modified McDonnel Douglas NF-15B fitted with neural network control systems or Intelligent Flight Control Systems (IFCS). We also got to see and climb partway, the Shuttle MDD (Mate/Demate Device) Facility. This was where the shuttle was brought after a landing at Edwards AFB, to be mated to the NASA 747 carrier to be transported back to Florida.
Following lunch on the base with the guest of honor, the Deputy head of NASA Dryden, we drove out to Edwards AFB flight-line for a viewing of aircraft parked in the transient/hanger spaces, aircraft such as an F-14 doing touch and goes and others taxing to the runway for take-off. There are at least 18 runways on the base, most of them along the flat lake-bed.
The theme for the banquet was 1940s. Several guests had donned costumes. To make matters worse, it was also a Mystery Dinner. There were several nurses, doctors, army officers and more. Who was an actor and who was a guest was a mystery. Is Captain Patton walking about with a batten, greeting everyone in his military voice, an actor or is he someone’s spouse? There was music with hit songs from Chicago such as “All that Jazz”, great dancing, and some excellent action. Patton it seems might not be whom one thinks he is! Murder and mystery were definitely in the air that night.
The next day in the afternoon we set off to Mohave Airport. The airport is a civilian test training center. AvTech, the company based at the airport manages and maintains commercial aircraft not in operation. There were almost 80 such aircraft parked on the day we visited. According to the AvTech personnel who served as our guide, after 9/11 they were receiving almost 30 aircraft per day. It takes about 7 days to restore an aircraft to make it airworthy and ready for flight. Afterwards we drove to the offices of Scaled Composites and spent almost two hours inside Burt Rutan’s hanger, underneath First Knight his Spaceship One launch vehicle, while Rutan spoke explaining his design, problems encountered and how they were fixed.
All in all, another fantastic section meeting filled with space, murder and mystery.
A memorable photo journey
Over St John’s River and Lake Poinsetta area at low altitude to view river, marshes, and wildlife in a 1940 Waco UPF-7 Biplane.
We then turned northeast and flew over the Indian and Banana Rivers towards Kennedy Space Center & Cape Canaveral.Approached Kennedy Space Center (KSC) to the northwest, and came in low flying down the middle of the Space Shuttle runway.
Flew over the nearby KSC/NASA Vehicle Assembly Building, new Blue Origin and Space X building, to the east of the Launch Complexes 39A and 39B.
A slow, low circle over the KSC Visitor Center, with Rocket Garden, Atlantis Center.
Then south towards Port Canaveral and Cocoa Beach, flying over the cruise ship terminals, cruise ships, and port, and then down along and over Coca Beach.
A little stick time for me as we turned west and headed back to Merritt Island for a landing.
What a fantastic flight. If you are ever in the Orlando area check out Florida Air Tours and take a ride with Mike.
Amazon billionaire Jeff Bezos’ Blue Origin space venture notched another record today when it sent its New Shepard suborbital spaceship on its highest-ever round trip to space. It was the eighth uncrewed test flight for the New Shepard program, and the second go-around for this particular spaceship, which is dubbed RSS H.G. Wells in honor […]
Discovery Final Fly By
How ironic is it that it was Discovery that did the flyby today over Washington DC, amidst the Washington Monument, Lincoln Memorial, and the Capitol? Atop a Boeing 747, it soared over the Nation’s Capital at 1500 ft waving a final goodbye before gliding to a landing at it’s final resting place: National Air and Space Museum Udvar-Hazy Center in Dulles, VA.
After a sweeping low flyby past the Washington Monument, it looped over the National Mall not once but twice, slow, silent yet graceful. Past the Smithsonian Air and Space Museum, the Capitol, The White House, Lincoln Memorial and Jefferson Memorial. After two graceful loops over the mall, she finally bid adieu headed up the Potomac River past the SW Waterfront, Reagan National Airport and finally Dulles International Airport. Crowds thronged the mall and other lookout areas taking a break from school, work and other activities to catch a glimpse of history, anxious to snap a photo and discuss the times they had watched a shuttle launch out in Titusville.
When NASA announced the end of the Space Shuttle Missions in 2010, it was finally now or never. It was STS 133 launch that I was scheduled to watch. After several failed attempts to procure KSC launch tickets, my friends and I managed to buy the Dolphin Tours Causeway launch package for STS-133 which was scheduled to liftoff on Nov 1st, 2010. As fate willed it, after waiting almost a week in Florida with daily postponements to the next day, STS-133 launch got scrubbed and re-scheduled for Feb 24th, 2011 when Discovery accomplished it’s final mission before being retired from service.
It was to be never for me since I have never watched a Shuttle launch or landing. So it is especially a bitter sweet moment to finally see Discovery not on a launchpad strapped to solid rocket boosters 10 miles away blasting off gracefully to space on a crimson and pristine predawn Florida sky but 1500 ft above Washington DC, piggybacked on a Boeing 747.
Discovery … and so we finally meet 🙂