Wednesday, November 9, 2011

A Special Visitor to Republic Airport

The producers of the television show Pan Am were back at Republic Airport recently, filming scenes for an upcoming episode. And once again, they brought a classic airliner in for the shoot. This time, it was the Boeing 707 owned by actor John Travolta. The airplane is restored with historic QANTAS markings, and had temporary Pan Am colors applied for the show.

The transformation complete, the big 707 was ready for her close ups.

The American Airpower Museum once again hosted the production company, with the museum hangar being used to prepare extras, for catering, and as a backdrop for some of the scenes. Spending two nights - all night, until sunrise - with them, gave me the opportunity to meet many of the cast and crew, who were all friendly and happy to talk about their show. Lead actor Mike Vogel, who plays Captain Dean Lowrey on the show, is a pilot himself, and he spend much of his time between shots with museum volunteers, talking aviation.

This time, Republic Airport acted as a stand-in for Haiti, where the crew of Jet Clipper Majestic have to make an emergency landing in an episode titled Unscheduled Departure which will air this Sunday, November 13.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

A Big Week of UN Visitors

Each year, the opening session of the United Nations General Assembly brings many of the world's leaders to New York City. The week is also a special treat for local area aviation photographers, as a collection of aircraft rarely seen in the area gather at Kennedy Airport. Kuwaiti government A310 on approach to JFK. Kuwaiti A310

One of the highlights of the week - a Russian Il-96, the first time I've gotten a good photo of one of these. Russian Il-96

This Boeing 727 brought the South African delegation.

When the President visits, the Secret Service brings in a variety of equipment and vehicles to support the trip. Here, an Air Force C-17, used to carry that gear, departs JFK.

Finally, the big VC-25 arrives as "Air Force 1". Air Force 1 passes the JFK tower on landing.

And a short time later departs again, as "SAM 28", after dropping off the President.

But my catch of the year as far as UN traffic is concerned...a Colombian Air Force 767 Air Refueling Tanker departs LaGuardia Airport heading back home with that country's delegation.

It's only the second time that tanker has been in New York. A huge thank you to my friend Ron for alerting me to it.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Labor Day at the Museum

After days of packing everything away to weather Hurricane Irene, it was a rush to get things back to normal at the American Airpower Museum in time for Labor Day weekend.

Washing the Grumman Avenger.

The museum celebrated the Centennial of Naval Aviation this weekend, with our Corsair and Avenger seeing action.

One of the highlights for me - getting a flight in the museum's C-47.

Jim Vocell, museum VP of Operations and Chief Pilot, was at the controls up front.

It wasn't just a joyride, however. The flight was part of the museum's D-Day Experience, where patrons get a taste of what it was like for the paratroopers who dropped into Normandy on June 6, 1944.

We also had a tribute to the Tuskegee Airmen, including a "Missing Man" formation flyover to honor Lt. Bill Wheeler, who passed in June.

As always, there was plenty of flying to be seen. Chris Baranaskas and Glamorous Gal joined us...

After wrapping up the C-47 flights, Jim Vocell displayed his versatility, piloting the museum's B-25 and F4U Corsair.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

A Sad Weekend

A clear, blue sky, white smoke trails, and the roar of engines - air shows are fun and exciting, watching skilled aviators demonstrate the capabilities of their aircraft as well as their own abilities. Unfortunately, behind those thrilling maneuvers, danger can be lurking. That simple fact was driven home this past weekend, when three separate accidents each claimed the life of an airshow performer.

At the Kansas City Air Show, pilot Bryan Jensen was lost in the crash of his biplane while performing before a large crowd of visitors during Saturday's performance. On Sunday, wingwalker Todd Green was performing his signature stunt - climbing from the wing of a Stearman biplane to the skid of a helicopter - when he fell about 200 feet to his death at the Selfridge Air National Guard Base in Michigan.

On Saturday, after completing a demonstration at the Bournemouth Air Festival, Flight Lieutenant Jon Egging, of the Royal Air Force Demonstration Team Red Arrows, died in the crash of his BAE Systems Hawk T1 jet. Egging, an 11 year veteran of the RAF, saw combat in Afghanistan flying the Harrier jump jet before joining the Red Arrows for the 2011 season.

Condolences to the families and friends of these three fine aviators.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Slipping the Surly Bonds with Dazzlin' Deb

I was at the American Airpower Museum on Sunday, when Paul Farber says "I'm going flying, want to come along?" Well, you don't have to ask me twice. Paul owns a beautiful T-6 Texan, which he keeps at the museum.

We departed Republic Airport and headed down to the south shore of the Island.

A trip east along Great South Bay, and we were soon arriving at Bayport Aerodrome, a small grass field, and home to a number of historic aircraft.

After a short visit at Bayport, we were back in the air, heading home.

What a fun way to spend an afternoon! Paul let me do much of the flying - while I was busy looking for traffic, watching for landmarks so I could figure out where we were, and trying to keep an eye on the instruments, I made sure to take a few moments and soak in the experience - the sound of the radial engine, the feel of the controls, and the amazing sight of looking out the canopy, seeing blue sky, puffy clouds, and a brilliant sun overhead.

It's a beautiful airplane, flies well, and sounds spectacular! Thanks Paul!

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

An American Hero

William Wheeler, a member of the famed WWII Tuskegee Airmen, passed away today.

A Detroit native, Col. Wheeler was a student at Howard University when he was selected for training at Tuskegee Air Field. After completing training, he flew the P-51 on bomber escort and ground attack missions before being grounded by a medical condition. Following the war, he moved to New York City, and was a resident of Hempstead for the past 47 years.

I've had the honor to meet and speak with Col. Wheeler many times over the past few years. He was a regular visitor to the American Airpower Museum, and was eager to tell the story of his fellow African-American airmen. He was a gentleman, and a gentle man - soft spoken, always with a big smile on his face, he really enjoyed speaking with people. One story he related to me really told of the challenges they faced. His brother-in-law was also a member of the group, and was shot down and captured by the Germans. Fearing for what the Germans might do to him, he was surprised to discover that they treated him in accordance to the Geneva Convention rules for a captured officer. As Col. Wheeler put it "The Germans treated him better than his own superior officers had..."

We lost another American Hero today.

Col. Wheeler (left) with Dr. Roscoe Brown.

Showing off his copy of the Congressional Gold Medal awarded to the Tuskegee Airmen in 2008.

The last time I spoke with him, Memorial Day weekend at the Airpower Museum.

Tuskegee Airmen Victor Terrelonge, Spann Watson, and William Wheeler. We've lost all three in the past year.

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Airplanes are a big part of any air show...some may say that without them, there isn't an air show. But as important, if not more so, are the people that make up an air show. Whether it is the pilots, ground crew, announcers, volunteers, or spectators, there wouldn't be a show without them. With that in mind, let's take a look at some of the folks who made up the Jones Beach Air Show.

Waiting for the fog to lift...

Waiting for the fog to lift.

Chris Baranaskas, who usually flies the P-51 Glamorous Gal, checks out something just a bit larger.

Chris Baranaskas checks out the bombardier's compartment of Fifi.

"What do you mean, you look cooler in a flight suit???"

Angelo keeps everyone safe.

Tuskegee Airman William Wheeler with a young visitor.

And finally, here's Fred - we always have the best adventures!