Sunday, August 28, 2005


Missing the Airshow

I missed the first day of the Westfield Airshow on Saturday because I was flying to Lancaster, PA for a Cardinal Flyers flyin. I did manage a few shots of the airshow setup as I departed Westfield at 7:00 on Saturday morning. The pictures are very large, so be patient. Hopefully, they're worth the wait.

MidfieldMidfield and the VOR, with a C-5 parked on Runway 15, The Red Bull MiG-17 and its companion on Taxiway Bravo, and a FedEx freighter and a P-3 on Taxiway Golf.

Military demonstratorsA little farther north, we see some military demonstrator aircraft on Bravo, and more static displays on Golf. The entire 104th FW ramp is taken up with static displays.

Thunderbirds and static displaysThe Thunderbirds lined up on Bravo. Beyond, the static display ramp contains a mix of mostly current training types, plus an F-16 and F-15. Oddities include an Antonov AN-2 of the Pioneer Valley Military & Transportation Museum, a civilian O-2 (ar at least a Skymaster painted up in military markings) and a couple of stuffed and mounted jets (F-86H and T-33) painted in Mass. Air Guard markings. The 104th FW had a couple of A-10's on display at the south end of the ramp as well.

The warbird rampThe warbird area next to the main hangar. In attendance were a P-51, (which was in the pattern as I departed) a P-47, an L-17, a TBM, an F4U, a T-6, a B-25, and a C-47

One last look at KBAFOne last look back at the whole show

Short final, landing longMuch later in the afternoon, about an hour and a half after the show ended for the day. They were supposed to open the field at 5:30, but it was 6:00 before I was cleared to land.


MiG in the Morning

This weekend's airshow meant that Westfield played host to a number of distinctive aerial guests. The Thunderbirds lead the bill, followed by the usual collection of military and civilian displays as well as a small gaggle of warbirds. One of the more unusual performers arrived earlier this week, and it was impossible to miss such a brightly colored addition to the ramp. This is why one always brings a camera when going to the airport, even if it's just to fetch a headset left in the plane from the previous day's lesson.

MiG-17F NX117BR on the Five Star RampThis crimson critter is a MiG-17F, formerly of the Polish Air Force. It defended its corner of the Iron Curtain for 25 years before being retired in the mid 1970's. It eventually made it's way to the United Sates, and it now spends its retirement in the service of Red Bull, selling energy drinks.

Red Bull logoThe nose carries the company's charging bull logo and is fitted with more than enough armament to terrorize the typical class D airport.

What you don't want to see in your rear-view mirrorThe wing racks now carry smoke pods to enhance the MiG's visibility during airshow performances.

MiG SilhouetteThe MiG-17 was a follow-on to the MiG-15, with which it shares a very strong family resemblance. The 17 is larger, with a more powerful engine, but the overall lines changed very little.

F-4 Driver's viewFrom this angle, it looks like a slightly pudgy F-84F.

Striking markingsThe markings recall those worn by demonstration teams of the USSR. There are about 9 MiG-17's (Polish designation: LIM-5) on the US registry. Most of them have "17" somewhere in their N-numbers.

The MiG's companion PA-32The MiG is accompanied by this more sedately marked Piper Cherokee Six. Both aircraft are operated by an outfit called MiG Magic, based in Las Vegas, and are popular attractions at airshows nationwide. The Red Bull company operates a small fleet of aircraft, including an assortment of restored classics. They also host the spectacular Red Bull Air Race, which can be described as a high powered combination of pylon racing and aerobatics. And if that's not enough, they sponsor a bewildering variety of activities ranging from athletics to auto racing and even a music academy.

4 out of 5 surviving members of the Soviet Politburo prefer Red Bull!Drink Red Bull, the official athletic beverage of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics!

Saturday, August 20, 2005


Summer Skies

About a month ago, I brought Yellowbird back home from her annual. Due to the typical midsummer weather, it was more of an adventure than I had planned on. In all, it took four days and three car trips to cover the 27 air miles between Turners Falls and Westfield, and poor Yellowbird had to spend a few rain induced nights on the transient ramp at Northampton after the skies turned dark only ten miles from home. The final day of the homeward journey didn't look that promising, but the weather kept to the south and we had clear but hazy skies for the last leg.

Rusty SunsetFrom 1,500 feet over Northampton, we were treated to a rusty orange sunset. The day's humidity still hung in the air despite the passage of several thunderstorms earlier in the afternoon. The hazy skies masked much of the sun's brightness as it touched the invisible hills in the distance.

From a DistanceStepping back a little, the low-level haze layer hugging the horizon was readily apparent. Above, clear skies prevailed. If I had climbed a few thousand feet, I would have been treated to unlimited visibility.

Mt. Tom vs. the ThunderstormThis was the last of a long line of heavy thunderstorms that had been moving through the area that day. This big guy grew up south of Westfield, and he apparently didn't like it - I could hear the thunder grumbling from the airport on the north side of town as I waited for my ride to Northampton. He moved east as we departed, and he was safely out of the area by the time Yellowbird and I were inbound. I don't know how big he got, but 1180 ft. Mt. Tom in the foreground gives a small sense of scale.

Monday, August 08, 2005


Instrument Blogging

Yellowbird and I currently have about 20 hours towards an instrument rating. Blogging on this subject has been light, since I haven't been consistently inspired to write, and photographs of instrument lessons can get pretty tedious. After all, how many panel shots do you really want to see?

Fortunately for those of you hankering to read about NDB approaches and radar vectors, Hamish Reid, of Yankee Alpha Foxtrot Bravo, has just compiled his IFR training posts into one handy sub-blog, the Instrument Training Diary. I haven't browsed the whole diary, but it looks promising.

And although it's not a blog, Joe Campbell's IFR Diary sets the standard for instrument training accounts. His insightful writeup should be part of the required reading for the instrument checkride.