Monday, September 7, 2015

Airport Festivities

The unnatural situation that has been existing in Central Texas (green grass) since May seems to be ending.  My field is slowly turning brown, and the county has declared a burn ban to be in effect.  No trash burning or open fires.  

I don't burn trash, so that's no problem, but the guests staying in the guest house do enjoy sitting around the fire pit and enjoying an Adult Beverage while toasting a marshmallow or two.  But a grassfire would be problematic, so we're in compliance.  

There doesn't appear to be a burn ban in effect in Mexico, since the only thing crossing the river faster than an illegal is the smoke and haze from the post harvest fires.  Seems after they harvest, they set fire to the fields to burn off what's left.  I guess it's faster than plowing.  

Another indicator that the burn ban is probably called for is the arrival of the modified crop dusters at the local airport.  I've been hearing them regularly as they depart from the airport and fly over the homestead on the way west.  Haven't heard of any significant fires out there, so maybe a single sortie is enough to extinguish the flames.

Since I drive by the airport daily on the way to work, I noticed them on the ground, so decided to stop by on Saturday and see what was what.  Interestingly, they are modified with a turboprop engine and a 5 bladed prop.  Even more interesting, the one on the extreme left (you can only see the wing) is a two seat version.  (yes, I took a picture of it specifically, no, it didn't turn out.)

I can see the advertisement now.  "For just $75, you can experience a fire up close and personal,  you'll fly an aircraft full of jet fuel, 10 feet off the ground through a raging fire! A once in a lifetime experience. Operators are standing by."

I've known a few cropduster pilots in my day.  All insane.  These guys are no exception.  Passing over my house, they might be 500'AGL, but probably not.  A guy could get a nosebleed that high, maybe hypoxia.

So, There I was...*

I'm pulling in to the airport, intending to talk to the crews and see if they've got anything that might be interesting for a post.  Yeah and I also intend to stop in the Diner and have lunch.  I've parked and am walking around the building because they've got some function going on as the flight line is roped off.  

But that's ok, as I wanted a picture of the static display C-47, now that the owner has finished repainting it in D-Day colors.  Himself.  By Hand.  He's my age.  Old.

As I'm taking the picture, I hear a rumble of engine noise in the distance and look around and what to my wondering eyes should appear, but a B-17 airborne over the town.

I get that shot, and wander through the Hotel lobby to the FBO next door to find that not only is there a B-17 there, there was a B-25, a P-51, an L-17C Navion, and a SNJ (I would have said AT-6, but it was painted in Navy Livery, and some people get a little Tetchy 'round here when improper terminology is used.  You know who you are).


Paid my $10 and walked out on the ramp.  About this time I hear the B-17 engines getting louder and look up.  There she is, directly overhead.  Had an eerie thought go through my head wondering how many folks had this as the final thing they saw.  Granted, she was maybe 3000' AGL, but you get the point.

I walk over to the B-25.  It's a beauty.  
We've even got Napoleon directing deployment of forces

This wasn't my first B-25.  When I was in College, I'd worked at an FBO and my boss had been part owner in a B-25. It wasn't hangared there, but it flew in occasionally, so I'd gotten to see it up close and personal.  Not airborne, mind you, but I had put gas in it, so that's almost as good.  (OK, maybe not.)

I do a walk around and get in line to climb in.  I remembered two things. One, I'd thought it was cramped when I climbed in it in College.  Two, I was skinny in College.  Logic dictated that the Confederate Commemorative Air Force would not look kindly on me getting stuck in their aircraft and therefore Prudence was adhered to.
You're looking at the business end of 7 x .50 cals

Walking around, chatting with ground crew and such, I hear the B-17 again.  Comes over the field 90 degrees to the runway. (Aaron, that's how you enter the pattern at an uncontrolled field, determine the active runway, clear for traffic and enter the pattern, But you knew that already.  So that was actually for Sarge.)  

It begins a right turn and drops it's gear.  I move out to the end of the wing of the B-25 and begin to take pictures.  

There's a little bit of a right cross, and the IP in my brain says "a little overshoot" in the final turn, but a little side slip and he's fine. 

About every second picture, there's a lady in the way.  I'd step over a bit to have a clear shot, take the snap, and then she'd move in to the shot.  Rinse Repeat, over and over.

Finally, I just point the camera at her and take the shot.  She asks me why I did that.  I responded, "Since you seem to be bound and determined to get into my pictures, I figured I'd just make it easy for you."  She responded "Oh".  No further problem.

But here I am, about to watch one of the 11 remaining Flying Fortresses land, and I have a camera ready!

 No bounce, which was nice as the sound of shutters clicking was almost as loud as the engines.  Rolls out and taxi's back.

Now the ground crews are herding people and yelling all round.  People are running out onto the taxiway to get their shot of the plane.  I'm standing under the wing of the B-25.  I figure, the ground crew isn't going to let the two airplanes come into contact, so I'm fine with where I am.  

The ground crew doesn't say anything to me, so I'm there when the 17 taxi's by.

When the Colling's foundation flew in a few months ago, they had all their passengers in the waist gun position, which would be cool, but not quite as cool as being in the Bombardier position.

Really thought long and hard about that one.  Man, those would be SOME pictures!  Well, turns out, regular seats are $475 and the Bombardier is $850. When I win the lottery.

That lottery win and Bombardier ride will be the precursor to this.  $3000 for a half hour ride.  Although, if you are a WWII veteran, he'll take you for free.  

 There are less expensive options. The SNJ will set you back $250 while the L-17 is "Only" $200.  

This looked like a pretty young kid, so I hope he enjoyed it.

All in all, it was a nice way to spend the day.  Hope your Labor Day is pleasant and relaxing.


  1. Great pics of the old birds. When I was a kid in Florida, they used B-17s for spraying against Fruit Flies. They'd go over at about 500 feet. Never forgot that sound. Glad you remembered proper nomenclature for the SNJ ;-).

    1. They do have a very distinctive sound! A very rhythmic thrumming.
      Didn't get any pictures of the SNJ. Just as it was coming in to land, the wife called and needed help at her store. Ah well...

  2. Nothing like starting the day with some "old timey" aircraft.

    And don't you just love the people maneuvering for a photo op who act like they are the only people on the planet? There are times when I've wished for a coaxial MG just to clear a path, so to speak.

    1. Thought you might enjoy them.

      Yeah, and I loved the folks running out onto the taxiway. "Hey let me get an up close picture of that airplane with those spinny prop things and its nose stuck way high in the air so the pilot can't see me." Pretty sure they're the same people that would sue the snot out of someone if they got hurt.

  3. I had a bunch of comments and this particular site has a nasty habit. I dutifully key in my comments - hit submit - -it then goes to a page wanting me to log in. Hit back page, and comments are gone to the bit bucket.

    Have to learn to copy before I hit submit

    Anyway the sight of planes like this bring out the 6 year old in some of us :-)

    1. Log in first, then comment. It is Blogger's way, not ours.

    2. It is irritating though, especially when you've made a particularly insightful comment.

      And you're right, I oscillate between 6 and 60 when I'm around old planes (or at least that's what the wife tells me!)

  4. Darn nice pics.

    Yes, I knew that about the entry pattern. Did it once under instructor guidance, but I'm still awhile from doing it all on my own.

    1. Thanks
      It'll come sooner than you think. I don't know if it still is the tradition, but on your very first solo, they used to cut the shirt tale off sign it and annotate date and tail #.. Just in case, I'd wear an old shirt.

    2. Yes, they're still doing that, at least at the flight school I'm attending. There's quite a collection up on the wall.

  5. Be careful what you wish for. I had ONE experience involving firebombing and WWII aircraft. Never again but a ride in the B-17 on a nice sunny day would be good.;postID=1767792065088013055;onPublishedMenu=allposts;onClosedMenu=allposts;postNum=1;src=postname

    1. That link only works for you WSF, unless you're willing to share your password. Which I sincerely doubt.

      Regards, Sarge

    2. No, I don't think I'd enjoy riding in a crop duster (Piloting maybe). Riding in a firebomber no way!

  6. When I first moved here to the North State, CDF, CalFire's precursor, flew B-17s for fighting wildfires.
    So we saw them all of the time.
    Now we see a lot of DC-6s, DC-7s, P3s, P2s and Stoofs.

    1. Yeah, the drought has been especially bad for you guys. Wildfires especially.

  7. Who? "Us" picky about terminology??? :-) That's definitely worth skipping lunch for! :-D Great pics too!

    1. Hatch/Door, Ladder/Stairs, Deck/Floor, Boat/Ship, Picky about terminology, Nah, By the time I finished my second Joint tour, I was pretty fluent in Navy terminology and had made some inroads into Navy Acronyms. Not fluent, mind you, but able to distinguish who I needed to be more careful about, CincPacFlt or ComDesGru.


Just be polite... that's all I ask. (For Buck)
Can't be nice, go somewhere else...

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