Hazardous Drones

Reading the BBC news as I do for news of the Old Country I happened to see this article http://www.bbc.com/news/uk-39747042 “Plane in UK’s first double-drone near-miss case” In which an A320 approaching London Heathrow last November reported having been in close proximity with not one but two drones. This is the first reported occasion that two drones have compromised the safety of an aircraft in UK airspace. The fact that the Airbus was at approximately 5,000 (five thousand) feet on its approach makes the actions of the drone operators even less explicable, since under UK law done operators are expected to restrict their flights to an altitude of 400 feet.

Drone

Generic drone picture. We don’t know exactly what types of drones are being flown into the paths of aircraft, deliberately or accidentally, but the fact that an increasing number of airprox reports are being filed indicates the problem is increasing.
(Public Domain image via Pixabay)

The article mentions the UK Airprox Board  so I thought I would have a look at their website.  https://www.airproxboard.org.uk/home/  As the website says” “Airprox occurrences are near accidents, and the mission of the UKAB is: “To enhance Air Safety through prevention of airborne conflict and mid-air collision”.  As part of this mission, a key role is to champion, contribute and communicate an understanding of Airprox causes and mid-air collision risks amongst the wider aviation community.”

Reading the report summaries for March 2017 https://www.airproxboard.org.uk/Reports-and-analysis/Monthly-summaries/2017/Monthly-Meeting-March-2017/ I am amazed at the number of reported incidents overall, and I am very concerned that the last five or so incidents involve both commercial and military aircraft coming into conflict with drones or models.   Some of the other reports are disturbingly interesting, such as the unidentified model aircraft that narrowly missed an RAF Chinook when it flew above  the low-flying helicopter (both pilots missed it, only a crewman observed the 1-meter white model passing above them). Also noteworthy is the interaction between an RAF Hawk and two “Foreign Military” (less than three guesses required)  F-15s over the Vale of York in November 2016.

When I feel inclined, I may look to see what similar mechanism exists in the USA.

 

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Nebraska Scavenger Hunt

Last week my wife was up at a conference in Lincoln, Nebraska. Having the afternoon off I decided to see if I could find any old aircraft worth visiting in the area, given that we knew we’d be visiting the Strategic Air and Space Museum the following day. What followed was a slightly delightful odyssey across South-East Nebraska taking in four small municipal airports which had old military aircraft in varying states of preservation on their land.

This is what the drive looked like most of the time – it wasn’t what you’d call crowded. 🙂

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First up was York Municipal Airport, which had this rather nice RF-84F on display – this is Republic RF-84F-10-RE Thunderflash 51-1935  which according to Joe Baugher probably didn’t serve in the USAF or Nebraska ANG but was supplied to a NATO country (others in the production line went to Turkey, West Germany and the Netherlands) before being returned to MASDC for disposal.

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After a long drive and a brief excursion up a dirt road I came to the Municipal Airport at Fairbury,  where I saw this rather sad looking T-33  – Lockheed T-33A-1-LO  51-9111.   It was, as you can see,  in a pretty sorry state. The cockpit canopy has gone, and a section of the vertical stabilizer.   My 10-year old guide book implied there was an F-100 somewhere in Fairbury but I didn’t see it at the airport.
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A little way further on I came to Beatrice (not pronounced the way I say it!) and saw another T-33 in a slightly less sorry state. Lockheed T-33A-1-LO 51-8880, which seems to have had some lights added to the wingtips for signage illumination purposes.

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As things were starting to get late, it was time to head to my last stop at Crete, where I found an interesting F-86D  at the Municipal Airport.  North American F-86D-40-NA Sabre 52-3735.   I couldn’t help noticing the badge of the Seabees on the concrete plinth.

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This was the formal ending of the afternoon’s activity but I had a couple more examples to show over the following days before we came back to Kansas.

I didn’t want to contend with the Lincoln traffic on a Friday afternoon,  but after we saw a KC-135 land at the ANG base adjacent to the airport we had a poke around on Saturday morning and found  57-1495 parked on the fence line. Joe Baugher says it’s a KC-135E which started life as a Boeing KC-135A-BN Stratotanker.  I’m not absolutely sure if this is an active aircraft since the other KC-135s in the background look like KC-135R  models with the re-engine mod done.   No doubt someone can set me straight.  🙂   There is supposed to be an F-86L, a T-33, an F-4 and something erlse at the ANG base but I only caught a faint glimpse and couldn’t work out where to go to get closer.

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Up at Ashland, and at the Strategic Air and Space Museum. A few Aircraft are now being displayed outside.

2015-05-30 11.46.12Chief among them is Rockwell International B-1A Lancer 76-0174, which was previously on display at Wright-Patt and  moved to Nebraska at the end of  2003.  I don’t think the paint scheme is exactly accurate for this specific aircraft, or how much it’s faded, but it looks impressive for now.

Inside the atrium,  I understand actually the Atrium was built around it, is a certain Blackbird. Lockheed SR-71A, AF Serial 61-7964 (c/n 2015).

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And hidden around the back, while the airframes are being reshuffled, is one of my personal favourites,   Avro 698 Vulcan B.2 XM573.  It looks a little folorn, but not as folorn as the wingless EC-135 sitting next to it (just off the left edge of my picture here).   ‘573 sat at Offutt AFB gathering moisture and rust from 1982 until 1998 or thereabouts, (look at the jet pipes if you want your own proof)  and looks likely to gather a little more before they bring it inside again.

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And finally, up a pole on I-80 advertising the Strategic Air and Space Museum we find Republic F-105D-15-RE Thunderchief 61-0069.    As I’ve said in a few places before this machine is a documented Vietnam war combat veteran, having shot down a North Vietnamese MiG-17 with an AIM-7 missile on June 3, 1967.   0069 was held by a museum in San Bernadino, CA until the Strategic Air and Space Museum bought it and hoisted it up its pylon on the Interstate.   It seems rather an unsuitable end for such a veteran.

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All in all it was a very enjoyable weekend even if I do differ with the  Strategic Air and Space Museum on a few of their approaches to preservation and conservation. However they are the ones on the ground doing the work in difficult circumstances, so I’ll save my armchair quarterbacking for some other place.