• U.S. Operated Russian-made Mil Mi-17 Helicopter Lands In North Carolina Farmer’s Field
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    Russian-made Mi-17 Helicopter Flown By Secretive U.S. Unit Lands In Farmer’s Field. Screen capture from a video originally posted by Dan Moore. Return to The Florida Pilot

    Earlier this year, Dan Moore, who owns a farm in North Carolina, had unusual visits by not one, but two secretive aircraft. After a Russian-made Mi-17 Hip-type helicopter made an emergency landing, a dark gray Bell 407 arrived with replacement parts. The Bell 407 may well have been one of a trio that flew around the greater Los Angeles area in California earlier this year, something The War Zone covered extensively, and both of these helicopters may belong to an especially shadowy U.S. military aviation unit.

    Moore, who is currently a member of the Civil Air Patrol, among other things, and has been a pilot for many years, had his encounter with these helicopters in May. However, he shared this story in more detail in a piece that the Air Facts aviation journal published this week. Full story on The Warzone

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=r8DprYz9w60&t=30s
    Video originally posted by Dan Moore.
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fgG6E6OaKYQ&t=79s
    A Bell 407 (from Felker Army Air Field?) coming in to the rescue of the stranded Mil Mi-17. Video originally posted by Dan Moore.
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    Screen capture of “black helicopter” from a video originally posted by Dan Moore.

    It has been speculated that the above helos originated (or at least their mission did) from Felker Army Air Field (AAF) which is part of Fort Eustis which is a part of the larger, overseeing Joint Base Langley-Eustis (JBLE). The WarZone addressed this speculation with their 2017 article It Looks Like The Army’s Most Secretive Aviation Unit Needs A New Home. In the 2012 JBLE article Felker Army Airfield: The story behind Fort Eustis’ ‘hornet’s nest’ operational units at Felker were characterized. Don’t try to get the bright idea to try to do a Wikipedia search on Felker AAF because you will get redirected to their JBLE informational page under the Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike License (??). I think it’s safe to correlate that Felker AAF spawns some spooky activity.

    As somebody who learned to fly within the parameters of the Washington VFR Sectional, I am very familiar with the area surrounding Felker AAF. It’s situated close to Langley AFB, NAS Norfolk, and NAS Oceana, and is a mere 78 miles south of PAX River, just to touch on a few. Anybody who has flown in the eastern Washington VFR Sectional corridor should be very familiar with the integration of military and civilian air traffic. I’ve included the below graphics to help you visualize where Felker AAF is located, and what it looks like.

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    Felker AAF on a plate provided by the USAF. Click on image or HERE for a hi-resolution image.
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    This will give you an idea of the true “hornet’s nest” where Felker AAF is situated. Original image: SkyVector
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    Google Earth
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    Google Earth
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    Google Earth
  • A New Magnet Powerful Enough to Lift an Aircraft Carrier
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    A central solenoid magnet for the ITER project departs from Berre-l’Etang in southern France, Monday, Sept. 6, 2021. The first part of a massive magnet so strong its American manufacturer claims it can lift an aircraft carrier arrived Thursday, Sept. 9, 2021 at a high-security site in southern France, where scientists hope it will help them build a ‘sun on earth.’ Almost 60-feet tall and 14 feet in diameter when fully assembled, the magnet is a crucial component of the International Thermonuclear Experimental Reactor, or ITER, a 35-nation effort to develop an abundant and safe source of nuclear energy for future generations.
    (AP Photo/Daniel Cole) DANIEL COLE AP – return to The Florida Pilot

    BIG Magnet: Teams working on two continents have marked similar milestones in their respective efforts to tap an energy source key to the fight against climate change: They’ve each produced very impressive magnets. Scientists at the International Thermonuclear Experimental Reactor in southern France took delivery of the first part of a massive magnet so strong its American manufacturer claims it can lift an aircraft carrier. Almost 60 feet (nearly 20 meters) tall and 14 feet (more than four meters) in diameter when fully assembled, the magnet is a crucial component in the attempt by 35 nations to master nuclear fusion. Full story Miami Herald

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    Workers secure a central solenoid magnet for the ITER project as it departs from Berre-l’Etang in southern France, Monday, Sept. 6, 2021. The first part of a massive magnet so strong its American manufacturer claims it can lift an aircraft carrier arrived Thursday, Sept. 9, 2021 at a high-security site in southern France, where scientists hope it will help them build a ‘sun on earth.’ Almost 60-feet tall and 14 feet in diameter when fully assembled, the magnet is a crucial component of the International Thermonuclear Experimental Reactor, or ITER, a 35-nation effort to develop an abundant and safe source of nuclear energy for future generations. (AP Photo/Daniel Cole) DANIEL COLE AP
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    A worker walks past a vacuum vessel component of the ITER machine in Saint-Paul-Lez-Durance, France, Thursday, Sept. 9, 2021. Scientists at the International Thermonuclear Experimental Reactor in southern France took delivery of the first part of a massive magnet so strong its American manufacturer claims it can lift an aircraft carrier. (AP Photo/Daniel Cole) DANIEL COLE AP
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xKpFaeVGvII

    Related: more on nuclear fusion: MIT Announces “Major Advance” in Fusion Power

  • Those Sharp Looking Red-tailed P-3C Orions You See Flying Around the Skies: MHD Rockland and ESG Aerosystems Inc. Training Platforms
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    The “business end” of MHD Rockland’s P-3C Orion N665BD. The distinctive tail at the rear of the aircraft is the Magnetic Anomaly Detector (MAD) antenna. A magnetic anomaly detector is used to detect very small variations in the Earth’s magnetic field. The term refers to magnetometers used to detect submarines (a mass of ferromagnetic material creates a detectable disturbance in the magnetic field) Click on image or here for hi-resolution. Image: author

    MHD/ESG Orions: I’ve lived in Florida for over twenty years. I’ve been from corner to corner, edge-to-edge. I once counted 168 alligators along the side of the Tamiami Trail in the Everglades – mere feet from passing traffic! I’ve come to know to stay away from I-4 if it winds anywhere near Orlando or Tampa. In total juxtaposition to the rapidly expanding urban sprawl is one of the coolest parts of this massive state: its interior. Drive ten miles east of Tampa and you will find yourself in a different world, literally. Air plants hanging within five feet from the top of your car on some of the most rural beautiful roads the United States has to offer. Trees intertwined by enormous orb webs “manned” by harmless, and docile, banana spiders (Trichonephila clavipes) bigger than your hand. Farms that have been there for hundreds of years, some inhabited, many not. Driving through the interior of the state of Florida gives one the impression they have transitioned into the deep south and all that has to offer.

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    Trees intertwined by enormous orb webs “manned” by harmless, and docile, banana spiders bigger than your hand.

    – Author

    Drive 41 miles southwest of Jacksonville, Florida and you will find yourself deep in the aforementioned wilderness with little to see except southern-style wilderness. You might get lucky enough to stumble upon a beautiful, quaint little town called Keystone Heights (naming this town Mayberry would have been fitting). During your drive in that direction, if you are the kind of person who notices airplanes in the sky, you might be lucky enough to get a glimpse of an unexpected, very large, and sleek, white airplane (with a red tail) flying in the distance. And, if you’re like me, your hands might involuntarily manipulate your steering wheel to direct your trusty steed in the direction where you think those airplanes (by now you’ve probably identified them as P-3 Orions) might be landing.

    Sometimes when we travel even a modest distance into uncharted (to you) territory you might see things that don’t necessarily make sense. In the deeper edges of the Florida interior, basically in the middle of nowhere pretty far from any real industrialization, you’re likely to check yourself if you see beautiful P-3 Orions with red tails just randomly flying around at a fairly low level. I’ll tell you right now, from personal experience, any red-blooded pilot worth his or her weight in salt is going to drive diligently, almost possessed, and get to the bottom of random P-3s flying patterns in the middle of nowhere – even down the dirtiest of dirt roads!

    If your internal guidance system is treating you well that day, and the Gods have spared your mission from being impeded by the very likely lightning-happy pop-up thunderstorm, you might just stumble on the Keystone Heights Airport (42J), home to MHD Rockland’s P-3C Orions. Keystone Heights Airport sits approximately 41 miles southwest of Jacksonville, 48 miles west of St. Augustine (IMHO, best beach in Florida), and 22 miles northeast of Gainesville, give or take. This gem of an airport revealed an interesting P-3 Orion story.

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    Historic images provided by MHD Rockland, historic data provided by the Keystone Heights Airport 

    The Keystone Heights Airport was constructed in 1942 by the United States Army Air Forces (the US Air Force did not yet exist), on the Southwest perimeter of Camp Blanding. It was originally named Crystal Lake Army Airfield, due to its proximity to Crystal Lake, but when commissioned in December of that same year it became known as the Keystone Army Airfield. During World War II, the field was the home of the AAFSAT Strategic Reconnaissance School. The F-3(A-20) Havoc, P-39D (variant) Air Cobra, and L-2 and L-3 Grasshopper Light Observation Aircraft (similar to a Piper Cub) were some of the Aircraft utilized for training. In November of 1943, the 313th Fighter Squadron moved from Alachua and employed P40 Warhawks for training. Later, the P-40s were replaced with P-47 Thunderbolts. In January 1945, the AAFSAT sent down orders for closure, and on February 1, 1945, the field was placed on inactive status. The city of Keystone Heights acquired the Airport from the Federal Government in 1947.

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    MHD Rockland/ESG Aerosystems Inc. P-3C walk-around at Keystone Heights Airport. Click on image or here for hi-resolution.

    Back to the red-tailed P-3s. MHD Rockland was formed in 1981 as a company that provided spare parts and services for fixed-wing aircraft. It is a company that has evolved into a leading supplier of parts and services, services that include aviation flight training. MHD Rockland services a multitude of aircraft including the C-130, P-3, F-16, and C-27.

    ESG Aerosystems inc. was awarded a U.S Navy Contract valued at $64.5 million and MHD Rockland is the sole-source aircraft subcontractor. As per the scope of their contract, ESG Aerosystems inc. is mandated to develop a curriculum and facilitate training for P-3 aircrew positions including co-pilots, patrol plane commanders, instructor pilots, flight engineers, instructor flight engineers, and flight currency training. This is to support the Naval Education and Training Security Assistance Field Activity’s (NETSAFA) applicable field units and other program offices and stakeholders. The achievement is 100% funded by the Federal Republic of Germany funds under the Foreign Military Sales Program to secure the operational readiness of the German Navy P-3C Aircrew.

    MHD Rockland, who employs more than 100 people worldwide, has the world’s largest privately held C-130 and P-3 inventories (350,000+ line items total inventory) and operates in six locations around the globe including Brisbane, Australia; Aukland, New Zealand; Keystone Heights, Florida; Crofton, Maryland; Montreal, Québec (HQ), and Burlington, Ontario.

    I would like to thank the folks at MHD Rockland/ESG Aerosystems Inc. for their gracious hospitality and help in putting this article together, including (but not limited to): Billy Bushman – CTO/Chief Evaluator/Instructor Pilot; Frank Schleehuber – Political Affairs Officer; Todd Falconer – VP of Flight Ops; Josh Miller – President MHD Rockland; Ben Garcia – Avionics Team Lead; and Bryan Dollimore – Owner, MHD Rockland

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    In August 2018, the final round of P-3 flight crew training at NAS Jacksonville conducted by Patrol Squadron Thirty (VP-30) took off. As VP-30 sundowns P-3 Orion operations, it is no longer able to support the global P-3 Orion customer to include Foreign Military partners and U.S. Government agencies. However, the global P-3 Orion network will continue flying their trusted P-3 Orion fleet – many of them well into the 2030s. For those members of the worldwide P-3 community, ESG Aerosystems Inc. in partnership with MHD Rockland stands ready to provide an extensive service package that perfectly matches individual needs and requirements. Image: ESG Aerosystems Inc.
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    MHD Rockland acquired five Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) AP-3Cs to supply its current fleet of five training Orions.
    Image: RAAF
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    MHD Rockland/ESG Aerosystems inc. P-3C walk-around at Keystone Heights Airport. Click on image or here for hi-resolution.
    MHD Rockland Mission Video
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    Crews from MHD Rockland work with trainees on one of the MHD Rockland P-3C Orions in both night and day environments. Images: MHD Rockland/ESG Aerosystems Inc.
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    MHD Rockland/ESG Aerosystems Inc. P-3C walk-around at Keystone Heights Airport. Click on image or here for hi-resolution.
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    MHD Rockland/ESG Aerosystems Inc. P-3C walk-around at Keystone Heights Airport. Click on image or here for hi-resolution.
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    MHD Rockland/ESG Aerosystems inc. P-3C walk-around at Keystone Heights Airport. Click on image or here for hi-resolution.
    Click on image or click here for high-resolution artwork. Return to The Florida Pilot

  • USN/Boeing F/A-18E/F Super Hornet Block III Launches Into the Skies of St. Louis
    Super Hornet, block iii, st. Louis, The Florida Pilot, TheFloridaPilot, general aviation news, military aviation news, Lockheed, Northrop Grumman, Boeing, SpaceX, Blue Origin, Virgin Galactic, Elon Musk, F-35A, F-35B, F-35C, B-2 Spirit, B-21 Raider, customaviationart, custom aviation art
    F288, the first Block III F/A-18 Super Hornet, closes its landing gear after performing a touch-and-go near Boeing’s St. Louis flight ramp. – Boeing / Mike Irvine

    The most advanced Super Hornet in history has completed its first flight, Boeing News Now said Sept. 10. 

    Boeing test pilots Ty “Grouch” Frautschi and Sam “Splat” Platt last week lifted off from Boeing’s St. Louis flight ramp and checkout center in the first combat-capable Block III F/A-18 Super Hornet.

    “It was a good day. The jet flew great,” Frautschi said. “It is a real pleasure to fly and I know the Navy is looking forward to getting all this capability that Block III is going to bring to the fleet.”  Read full story at Seapower

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    The Block III Super Hornet was originally slated to incorporate conformal fuel tanks which would increase range and improve the jet’s Radar Cross Section (RCS). In an August 25, 2021 report by The Drive/The Warzone, Boeing has decided to put the CFTs on hold and not incorporate them in initial deliveries. Image: Boeing
    The Block III Super Hornet will incorporate the Advanced Cockpit System, a 10×19 inch display with one solid piece of glass rather than two in the front cockpit. The display will be the largest display on any fighter other than the F-15. – Boeing 
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3mWFnIoivO8
  • Chinese Warships Sailing Near Alaska’s Aleutian Islands Shadowed By U.S. Coast Guard
    Chinese, Warships, Alaska, Aleutian Islands, U.S. Coast Guard, USCG, The Florida Pilot, TheFloridaPilot, general aviation news, military aviation news, Lockheed, Northrop Grumman, Boeing, SpaceX, Blue Origin, Virgin Galactic, Elon Musk, F-35A, F-35B, F-35C, B-2 Spirit, B-21 Raider, customaviationart, custom aviation art
    Pictures of the Chinese vessels off Alaska emerged after criticism of similar American naval activity from one of China’s main state media outlets. Read moreReturn to The Florida Pilot Image: USCG

    Chinese Warships: The U.S. Coast Guard recently released a set of pictures of the Legend class cutter USCGC Bertholf shadowing a group of four Chinese warships sailing in America’s Exclusive Economic Zone near Alaska’s Aleutian Islands back in August. The emergence of these pictures follows the editor-in-chief of Global Times, a newspaper under the direct control of the Chinese Communist Party, taking to Twitter to criticize U.S. Navy operations in the Pacific that routinely challenge many of Beijing’s widely disputed maritime territorial claims, especially in the South China Sea and the Taiwan Strait, and warn of tit-for-tat activities on the part of the People’s Liberation Army Navy. Read more

  • NASA picks SpaceX’s Falcon Heavy to launch GOES-U weather satellite
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    A SpaceX Falcon Heavy rocket launches the STP-2 mission for the U.S. Department of Defense on June 25, 2019.
    (Image credit: SpaceX) Full storyReturn to The Florida Pilot

    GOES-U: NASA has picked Falcon Heavy to launch the Geostationary Operational Environmental Satellite-U (GOES-U), with a planned liftoff in April 2024 from Kennedy Space Center in Florida, agency officials announced on Friday (Sept. 10). The total launch cost for NASA will be about $152.5 million, they added.

    “GOES-U will provide advanced imagery and atmospheric measurements of Earth’s weather, oceans, and environment, as well as real-time mapping of total lightning activity and improved monitoring of solar activity and space weather.” NASA officials said in a statement Friday. Read more

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    NASA’s GOES-U is a planned weather satellite, the fourth and last of the GOES-R series of satellites operated by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). The GOES-R series will extend the availability of the Geostationary Operational Environmental Satellite (GOES) system until 2036. Read more
  • Those Sharp Looking Red-tailed P-3C Orions You See Flying Around the Skies: MHD Rockland and ESG Aerosystems Inc. Training Platforms
    MHD Rockland, ESG Aero Systems, P-3c, Orions, Orion, RAAF, royal Australian air force, The Florida Pilot, TheFloridaPilot, general aviation news, military aviation news, Lockheed, Northrop Grumman, Boeing, SpaceX, Blue Origin, Virgin Galactic, Elon Musk, F-35A, F-35B, F-35C, B-2 Spirit, B-21 Raider, customaviationart, custom aviation art
    The “business end” of MHD Rockland’s P-3C Orion N665BD. The distinctive tail at the rear of the aircraft is the Magnetic Anomaly Detector (MAD) antenna. A magnetic anomaly detector is used to detect very small variations in the Earth’s magnetic field. The term refers to magnetometers used to detect submarines (a mass of ferromagnetic material creates a detectable disturbance in the magnetic field) Click on image or here for hi-resolution. Image: author

    MHD/ESG Orions: I’ve lived in Florida for over twenty years. I’ve been from corner to corner, edge-to-edge. I once counted 168 alligators along the side of the Tamiami Trail in the Everglades – mere feet from passing traffic! I’ve come to know to stay away from I-4 if it winds anywhere near Orlando or Tampa. In total juxtaposition to the rapidly expanding urban sprawl is one of the coolest parts of this massive state: its interior. Drive ten miles east of Tampa and you will find yourself in a different world, literally. Air plants hanging within five feet from the top of your car on some of the most rural beautiful roads the United States has to offer. Trees intertwined by enormous orb webs “manned” by harmless, and docile, banana spiders (Trichonephila clavipes) bigger than your hand. Farms that have been there for hundreds of years, some inhabited, many not. Driving through the interior of the state of Florida gives one the impression they have transitioned into the deep south and all that has to offer.

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    Trees intertwined by enormous orb webs “manned” by harmless, and docile, banana spiders bigger than your hand.

    – Author

    Drive 41 miles southwest of Jacksonville, Florida and you will find yourself deep in the aforementioned wilderness with little to see except southern-style wilderness. You might get lucky enough to stumble upon a beautiful, quaint little town called Keystone Heights (naming this town Mayberry would have been fitting). During your drive in that direction, if you are the kind of person who notices airplanes in the sky, you might be lucky enough to get a glimpse of an unexpected, very large, and sleek, white airplane (with a red tail) flying in the distance. And, if you’re like me, your hands might involuntarily manipulate your steering wheel to direct your trusty steed in the direction where you think those airplanes (by now you’ve probably identified them as P-3 Orions) might be landing.

    Sometimes when we travel even a modest distance into uncharted (to you) territory you might see things that don’t necessarily make sense. In the deeper edges of the Florida interior, basically in the middle of nowhere pretty far from any real industrialization, you’re likely to check yourself if you see beautiful P-3 Orions with red tails just randomly flying around at a fairly low level. I’ll tell you right now, from personal experience, any red-blooded pilot worth his or her weight in salt is going to drive diligently, almost possessed, and get to the bottom of random P-3s flying patterns in the middle of nowhere – even down the dirtiest of dirt roads!

    If your internal guidance system is treating you well that day, and the Gods have spared your mission from being impeded by the very likely lightning-happy pop-up thunderstorm, you might just stumble on the Keystone Heights Airport (42J), home to MHD Rockland’s P-3C Orions. Keystone Heights Airport sits approximately 41 miles southwest of Jacksonville, 48 miles west of St. Augustine (IMHO, best beach in Florida), and 22 miles northeast of Gainesville, give or take. This gem of an airport revealed an interesting P-3 Orion story.

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    Historic images provided by MHD Rockland, historic data provided by the Keystone Heights Airport 

    The Keystone Heights Airport was constructed in 1942 by the United States Army Air Forces (the US Air Force did not yet exist), on the Southwest perimeter of Camp Blanding. It was originally named Crystal Lake Army Airfield, due to its proximity to Crystal Lake, but when commissioned in December of that same year it became known as the Keystone Army Airfield. During World War II, the field was the home of the AAFSAT Strategic Reconnaissance School. The F-3(A-20) Havoc, P-39D (variant) Air Cobra, and L-2 and L-3 Grasshopper Light Observation Aircraft (similar to a Piper Cub) were some of the Aircraft utilized for training. In November of 1943, the 313th Fighter Squadron moved from Alachua and employed P40 Warhawks for training. Later, the P-40s were replaced with P-47 Thunderbolts. In January 1945, the AAFSAT sent down orders for closure, and on February 1, 1945, the field was placed on inactive status. The city of Keystone Heights acquired the Airport from the Federal Government in 1947.

    Keystone Heights airport, MHD Rockland, ESG Aero Systems, P-3c, Orion, RAAF, royal Australian air force, The Florida Pilot, TheFloridaPilot, general aviation news, military aviation news, Lockheed, Northrop Grumman, Boeing, SpaceX, Blue Origin, Virgin Galactic, Elon Musk, F-35A, F-35B, F-35C, B-2 Spirit, B-21 Raider, customaviationart, custom aviation art
    MHD Rockland/ESG Aerosystems Inc. P-3C walk-around at Keystone Heights Airport. Click on image or here for hi-resolution.

    Back to the red-tailed P-3s who are based at the Keystone Heights Airport and their parent companies, MHD Rockland and ESG Aerosystems Inc. MHD Rockland was formed in 1981 as a company that provided spare parts and services for fixed-wing aircraft. It is a company that has evolved into a leading supplier of parts and services, services that include aviation flight training. MHD Rockland services a multitude of aircraft including the C-130, P-3, F-16, and C-27.

    ESG Aerosystems inc. was awarded a U.S Navy Contract valued at $64.5 million and MHD Rockland is the sole-source aircraft subcontractor. As per the scope of their contract, ESG Aerosystems inc. is mandated to develop a curriculum and facilitate training for P-3 aircrew positions including co-pilots, patrol plane commanders, instructor pilots, flight engineers, instructor flight engineers, and flight currency training. This is to support the Naval Education and Training Security Assistance Field Activity’s (NETSAFA) applicable field units and other program offices and stakeholders. The achievement is 100% funded by the Federal Republic of Germany funds under the Foreign Military Sales Program to secure the operational readiness of the German Navy P-3C Aircrew.

    MHD Rockland, who employs more than 100 people worldwide, has the world’s largest privately held C-130 and P-3 inventories (350,000+ line items total inventory) and operates in six locations around the globe including Brisbane, Australia; Aukland, New Zealand; Keystone Heights, Florida; Crofton, Maryland; Montreal, Québec (HQ), and Burlington, Ontario.

    I would like to thank the folks at MHD Rockland/ESG Aerosystems Inc. for their gracious hospitality and help in putting this article together, including (but not limited to): Billy Bushman – CTO/Chief Evaluator/Instructor Pilot; Frank Schleehuber – Political Affairs Officer; Todd Falconer – VP of Flight Ops; Josh Miller – President MHD Rockland; Ben Garcia – Avionics Team Lead; and Bryan Dollimore – Owner, MHD Rockland

    Keystone Heights airport, MHD Rockland, ESG Aero Systems, P-3c, Orion, RAAF, royal Australian air force, The Florida Pilot, TheFloridaPilot, general aviation news, military aviation news, Lockheed, Northrop Grumman, Boeing, SpaceX, Blue Origin, Virgin Galactic, Elon Musk, F-35A, F-35B, F-35C, B-2 Spirit, B-21 Raider, customaviationart, custom aviation art
    In August 2018, the final round of P-3 flight crew training at NAS Jacksonville conducted by Patrol Squadron Thirty (VP-30) took off. As VP-30 sundowns P-3 Orion operations, it is no longer able to support the global P-3 Orion customer to include Foreign Military partners and U.S. Government agencies. However, the global P-3 Orion network will continue flying their trusted P-3 Orion fleet – many of them well into the 2030s. For those members of the worldwide P-3 community, ESG Aerosystems Inc. in partnership with MHD Rockland stands ready to provide an extensive service package that perfectly matches individual needs and requirements. Image: ESG Aerosystems Inc.
    Keystone Heights airport, MHD Rockland, ESG Aero Systems, P-3c, Orion, RAAF, royal Australian air force, The Florida Pilot, TheFloridaPilot, general aviation news, military aviation news, Lockheed, Northrop Grumman, Boeing, SpaceX, Blue Origin, Virgin Galactic, Elon Musk, F-35A, F-35B, F-35C, B-2 Spirit, B-21 Raider, customaviationart, custom aviation art
    MHD Rockland acquired five Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) AP-3Cs to supply its current fleet of five training Orions.
    Image: RAAF
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    MHD Rockland/ESG Aerosystems inc. P-3C walk-around at Keystone Heights Airport. Click on image or here for hi-resolution.
    MHD Rockland Mission Video
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    Crews from MHD Rockland work with trainees on one of the MHD Rockland P-3C Orions in both night and day environments. Images: MHD Rockland/ESG Aerosystems Inc.
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    MHD Rockland/ESG Aerosystems Inc. P-3C walk-around at Keystone Heights Airport. Click on image or here for hi-resolution.
    Keystone Heights airport, MHD Rockland, ESG Aero Systems, P-3c, Orion, RAAF, royal Australian air force, The Florida Pilot, TheFloridaPilot, general aviation news, military aviation news, Lockheed, Northrop Grumman, Boeing, SpaceX, Blue Origin, Virgin Galactic, Elon Musk, F-35A, F-35B, F-35C, B-2 Spirit, B-21 Raider, customaviationart, custom aviation art
    MHD Rockland/ESG Aerosystems Inc. P-3C walk-around at Keystone Heights Airport. Click on image or here for hi-resolution.
    Keystone Heights airport, MHD Rockland, ESG Aero Systems, P-3c, Orion, RAAF, royal Australian air force, The Florida Pilot, TheFloridaPilot, general aviation news, military aviation news, Lockheed, Northrop Grumman, Boeing, SpaceX, Blue Origin, Virgin Galactic, Elon Musk, F-35A, F-35B, F-35C, B-2 Spirit, B-21 Raider, customaviationart, custom aviation art
    MHD Rockland/ESG Aerosystems inc. P-3C walk-around at Keystone Heights Airport. Click on image or here for hi-resolution.
    Click on image or click here for high-resolution artwork. Return to The Florida Pilot

  • The Initial Military Response to the Terrorist Attacks on September 11, 2001, and Protecting Air Force One in those Initial Hours

    An Interview with Major General Larry K. Arnold, Commander, 1st Air Force, Tyndall AFB, Florida regarding the September 11, 2001 Attacks as it appeared in Lockheed Martin’s CodeOne Magazine in their January 2002 Issue, Vol. 17, No. 1 (no longer available in archive).

    September, 9/11, world trade centers, terrorist, attacks, air force one, The Florida Pilot, TheFloridaPilot, general aviation news, military aviation news, Lockheed, Northrop Grumman, Boeing, SpaceX, Blue Origin, Virgin Galactic, Elon Musk, F-35A, F-35B, F-35C, B-2 Spirit, B-21 Raider, customaviationart, custom aviation art
    Source: USAFReturn to The Florida Pilot

    September 11, 2001.

    Editor’s note: please read the following keeping in mind the chronological context in which the interview was conducted. This article is as close to a time capsule, from a military perspective, as it probably gets. The original article is one I read in print form from my subscription to the printed CodeOne I received at one time and have had a hard time tracking it down. The information as to who the original interviewer for CodeOne Magazine was could not be located. I’m honored to be able to archive it on The Florida Pilot



    Maj. General Larry Arnold:

    The mission of the North American Aerospace Defense Command, or NORAD, formerly involved tracking and monitoring all aircraft entering the borders of the United States and Canada. Since the 11 September terrorist attacks, that mission has expanded to include tracking and monitoring aircraft flying within the United States. While the Federal Aviation Administration still remains responsible for domestic airspace, NORAD forces now respond to FAA requests to assist with any threatening or hostile aircraft. To meet this expanded air defense mission, NORAD employs over 100 aircraft in a high state of alert or in combat air patrol sorties over selected areas of the United States. These missions will continue as long as the Secretary of Defense deems necessary.

    In addition to employing more aircraft, NORAD has taken other measures to cover this expanded mission, such as maintaining continuous communications with the FAA, obtaining comprehensive access to FAA radar data, and positioning radar to combat new threats. When the United States invoked Article 5 of the NATO charter after the September attacks (a historical first), NATO AWACS aircraft became available to assist US AWACS to enhance NORAD’s capability further.

    The commander of the Continental United States NORAD Region, Maj. Gen. Larry Arnold plays a vital role in Homeland Defense and in Noble Eagle, the name of the military operation designed to respond to the terrorist attacks. As the commander of the 1st Air Force for Air Combat Command, he provides the forces necessary for the unilateral defense of the United States.

    A combined 1st Air Force command post and CONUS NORAD Region Air Operations Center perform the NORAD air sovereignty mission for the continental United States. Located at Tyndall AFB, Florida, 1st Air Force has been an Air Combat Command organization since 1993. Its subordinate units are located throughout the continental United States. With the transfer of responsibility for continental air defense from the active-duty component of the Air Force to the Air National Guard in 1997, the 1st Air Force became the first numbered air force to be composed primarily of citizen airmen.

    Maj. Gen. Arnold is a command pilot with more than 4,000 flying hours in nine different aircraft, including the F-16 and the F-15. Code One Editor Eric Hehs interviewed Arnold at Tyndall last December.

    How have your responsibilities changed since 11 September?

    Before 11 September, we were more concerned with air sovereignty than with air defense. That is, we were more concerned with who was entering or exiting our borders than we were with protecting those borders against military threats. Our emphasis on the air defense role started fading with the meltdown of the Soviet Union. However, we still maintained an air defense capability.

    On 11 September, our focus on air defense was renewed. Within eighteen hours, we went from fourteen aircraft on alert at seven locations to nearly 300 airplanes on alert at twenty-six locations. We maintained sixteen separate orbits for three days. We published air-tasking orders, set up channels to communicate with other responsible organizations, and maintained positive command and control over these assets in a very short timeframe. Without the infrastructure we had maintained, we would not have been able to respond as well as we did on 11 September.

    We have to produce air-tasking orders every day and be prepared to thwart a terrorist attack of any kind coming from outside or from within our borders. That phrase, “within our borders,” explains how our mission has changed. We always viewed an attack from within our borders as a law enforcement issue, not as an air defense issue. The reality is that any attack within the United States by any type of weapon has become an air defense issue.

    How has your life and your mission changed?

    My life, and the lives of most of our people around here, was pretty stressed for the first month. We had thirty-eight people assigned to the 701st Air Defense Squadron, which runs our air operations center, or AOC. Clearly, we couldn’t cover the expanded duties of this organization with thirty-eight people. We emptied the numbered Air Force side of the house and moved everyone over to the AOC, which gave us about 160 people to call upon.

    For the first month, most of us worked fourteen-hour days. Some of us worked longer hours than that. As more people arrived, we began working twelve hours on, twelve hours off, seven days a week, with no days off for the first month. Gradually, we gave people a day off. Our goal now is to work forty-eight-hour weeks with two days off a week. Today, we have over 350 people in the AOC to sustain our operations.

    F-16 Over Ground ZeroDescribe how events unfolded at the 1st Air Force on 11 September.

    The 1st Air Force was right in the middle of an exercise called Vigilant Guardian. I was at the AOC. We had emptied our numbered air force for the AOC because we are one of the few numbered air forces that don’t have an air operations group, which normally staffs an AOC. We had been in the exercise for about four days. As I walked out of a video teleconference with NORAD, someone came up and told me that the Northeast Air Defense sector had a possible hijacking. My first thought was the hijacking was part of the exercise. But I knew otherwise by the time I talked with the commander of the Northeast Air Defense Sector. He had aircraft on battle stations. You might ask why the aircraft weren’t scrambled immediately. The procedure is that the FAA contacts the national military command center whenever there is a problem. They, in turn, go to NORAD to see if assets are available. Then the Secretary of Defense grants approval to intercept a hijacked airplane, which has heretofore been classified as a law enforcement issue.

    I decided to give the go-ahead to scramble and work out the details later. Just about the time the airplanes were airborne, I looked up at the television in the AOC. Like everyone else, I saw the smoldering north tower of the World Trade Center. We watched the second airplane as it flew into the south tower on live television. We received a call of a second hijacking sometime after that. Then we began getting calls of other potential hijackings. Not all the calls were true. These hijacking reports added to the confusion. We had not confirmed that the hijacked airplanes were the ones that had hit the towers. When the second tower was hit, though, I strongly suspected this was the case.

    ATC Control RoomBy this time, we were watching United Flight 93 wander around Ohio. We got another call of a Delta flight being hijacked in the Cleveland area. We were trying desperately to find military fighters airborne in that part of the United States. We found some aircraft out of Michigan. We also had a National Guard unit in Toledo, Ohio, that was flying.

    The Northeast Air Defense commander scrambled alert aircraft out of Langley AFB, Virginia, F-16s deployed to Langley from the 119th Fighter Wing at Fargo, North Dakota. Many people believe that we scrambled these aircraft to intercept American Flight 77, which had taken off from Dulles and was heading back to the Washington, DC, area. Flight 77, which had been called as a potential hijacking, dropped off the radar picture. We were receiving many reports of hijacked aircraft. When we received those calls, we might not know from where the aircraft had departed. We also didn’t know the location of the airplane. We scrambled from Langley and put the aircraft over the top of DC. The scrambled aircraft took off before American Flight 77 crashed into the Pentagon, but they were about eight minutes out from DC.

    An illustration painted by Gil Cohen of an F-16 on September 11, 2001, flying over the burning Pentagon in Washington, D.C.

    F-16 at the ReadyThe United States was clearly under attack. We wanted to have aircraft in position to defend against further attacks on Washington, DC, and New York. At the same time, we saw United Flight 93 out there. We wanted to go out and meet it. But we were not going to do anything until the airliner got closer to DC. The flight came within about 200 miles of the DC area when, as we found out later, the passengers rushed the cockpit and the airplane crashed in Pennsylvania.

    We had the North Dakota F-16s from Langley over DC. About twenty minutes later, F-16s from the 113th FW of the DC Guard showed up below them. The 113th got a direct call from the Secret Service and got airborne. They did a great job. They didn’t know F-16s from the 119th were above them, and the 119th didn’t know the 113th was below them. Once they found out, the pilots got together. A pilot from the 113th, a recent graduate of the Fighter Weapons School, organized the combat air patrol. He put the DC guys to the north and the Fargo guys to the south.

    F-16 at the Ready. People were generating aircraft and getting airborne. The Northeast Air Defense Sector diverted some tankers to support the fighters covering New York. Our picture over DC was pretty poor. And the communication was poor. So the aircrews themselves coordinated the refueling and the combat air patrols. An AWACS flying a training mission nearby arrived. The AWACS could talk to the Northeast Sector and provide a better picture to them.

    Another AWACS was flying a training mission off the coast of Florida. President Bush was in Sarasota. We moved the AWACS towards the president. Then we received tasking from the Secret Service through F-16 Refueling the Joint Staff and NORAD to follow the president and protect him. I had set up an arrangement with their wing commander at Tinker some months earlier for us to divert their AWACS off a normal training mission to go into an exercise scenario simulating an attack on the United States. The AWACS crew initially thought we were going into one of those simulations.

    We were not told where Air Force One was going. We were told just to follow the president. We scrambled available airplanes from Tyndall and then from Ellington in Houston, Texas. The Ellington F-16s chased Air Force One and landed with the president at Barksdale AFB in Louisiana. The president flew from Barksdale to Offut AFB, Nebraska, and then back to Washington, DC. We maintained the AWACS overhead the whole route. I’d like to emphasize that everyone involved that day had a warrior spirit, whether they were flying tankers, fighters, or AWACS. They reacted in an admirable way.

    Was the 1st Air Force involved in the orders to ground all aircraft?

    We are all trying to determine the sequence of events. First, the NORAD commander issued a SCATANA order, or security control of air traffic and navigation aids, which gave him the authority to ground commercial air traffic. But I believe the FAA shut down all aircraft from coming into the United States shortly before the SCATANA order was given. The FAA also stopped all air traffic from taking off. Aircraft already airborne were then diverted from large cities into secondary locations. Many airports in Canada had lots of diverted airplanes on their ramps. We have a photo taken over Halifax, Nova Scotia, that shows forty-one airliners sitting on an inactive runway with about 6,000 people waiting to be cleared to get off.

    Then we created a free fire zone over the nation’s capital. Anyone airborne who did not immediately turn away from the center of town or who did not land could be shot down. We had a few instances of people flying in the area who were unaware of the circumstances. Our military pilots deserve a lot of professional credit for getting those aircraft on the ground.

    By the end of the day, we had twenty-one aircraft identified as possible hijackings. The last one was en route from Madrid, Spain, to JFK International Airport. The Northeast Air Defense Sector, which talked to the pilot, told us the airplane had turned around and was on the ground back in Madrid. Upon getting that word, Air Force One was cleared to go back to Washington, DC.

    What is your part in Operation Noble Eagle?

    Noble Eagle is an expansion of the NORAD mission. The focus is on NORAD’s more traditional mission of air sovereignty and air defense not only looking outward but also turning inward. So it is a more pervasive look at air defense. Noble Eagle allows us to fly orbits over certain cities. The Secretary of Defense has made no secret of this coverage. We continue orbits over New York and Washington, DC. We fly random combat air patrols over other locations. We also maintain enough aircraft on alert status to go back up and perform all of these CAPs that we have identified. The Secretary of Defense has released the fact that we can support CAPs over sixteen cities very rapidly.

    You flew ADF missions during the Cold War. How do those missions compare with missions related to Noble Eagle?

    In the latter days of the Cold War, we were concerned with the transit of Soviet bombers down to Cuba. We intercepted those flights off the coast of Iceland and progressively handed them off to the Canadians, who would hand them off to the northern tier of east coast fighters in the United States, who would hand them off all the way down from Florida to about halfway to Cuba.

    The real significance between that mission and the mission we are flying now is not the mechanics of our defense but the nature of the enemy. In the Cold War, we had an enemy who could be deterred and a capability to defend against it. Today, we have an enemy who cannot be deterred although we still have a capability to defend against it. Because of the asymmetric nature of the threat, determining when, where, and how it will attack is much more difficult than it was during the Cold War. We have understood since 1997 that a nondeterable asymmetric enemy is the biggest threat to the continental United States.

    We recognized the potential for that attack to come from outside the United States using cruise missiles from ships or barges or light aircraft. But we did not honestly think about hijacked airliners being used in suicide attacks. I don’t think we underestimated the capability of terrorist threats. We underestimated the tenacity of the terrorists. To put people in this country in 1996 and have them stay here and train for a one-way suicide mission is not something most people could have comprehended.

    How has NORAD coverage expanded to include the interior United States?

    We have been working with the FAA to give our own radar the same internal look as the FAA radar. Joint surveillance sites were created through an agreement between the DoD and the Department of Transportation to give our long-range radar better coverage. Then we worked the terminal radars, which will give us very good coverage at lower altitudes.

    We need to see what the FAA radar can see because the FAA is the most likely agency to let us know that an attack is in progress from within the country. It will be the most likely agency to know that an airplane is not squawking, is off its flight plan, and is in airspace where it should not be. To that end, the FAA and the Air Force have spent a lot of money hooking up these radars as we go forward. We also have to be able to communicate with the FAA and with fighters within the central part of the United States. We have developed backup capability very rapidly with a telephone patch through the FAA to any aircraft flying in the United States. If we know where that aircraft is flying and what control center is working with it, we call the FAA to patch us to the cockpit of that aircraft. For a while, that was the only capability we had. Now it’s a backup capability.

    We sent air battle managers, weapon controllers who work at ground control intercept sites, to fifteen of the air traffic control centers where we have poor coverage. The air battle managers can transmit military orders to pilots. We have computerized battle management systems called the Q-93 at our three Continental US sectors within NORAD that were installed in 1983. So you can imagine, given where we are with computers today, that these systems are limited. They can’t readily accommodate information from radar sites from within the United States. So our three sectors are using a contingency system to hook up to the internal FAA radars. We took that first step very rapidly. The second step is a long-term solution. We think we will be under contract for a new system in the spring of 2002.

    Night MissionHow do alert units across the United States handle the increased commitment?

    It’s rough on all of our units whether or not they had jets on alert. We have more aircraft on alert status at our traditional alert sites than even before. We’ve had no complaints whatsoever from any unit for any reason. At some point, they will get relief so they can do continuation training. When units deploy to Operations Northern or Southern Watch, they are at their best the day they arrive. And at their worst the day they leave. When a unit completes a ninety-day commitment, it has gotten very little training. We are in the same position with Operation Noble Eagle. Sitting alert or flying CAPs takes time away from training. We have been working with Air Combat Command and with the National Guard Bureau to find ways to spread the hurt. We’ve been able to do that to some degree. We’re using part of the Aerospace Expeditionary Forces to relieve those units supporting the New York City and Washington, DC, CAPs. This frees the units for more continuation training.

    What does it mean for units that are not traditional air defense units to suddenly have an alert commitment?

    Most of the units don’t have alert facilities. They need shelters, especially in the northern states. We have let contracts to build shelters across the country. In some cases, we are rehabbing old shelters built for the Cold War. We can solve the lack of crew quarters in many different ways. Some units have rented Winnebagos. We’ve installed scramble circuits that connect us to the command post of the units, to departure control, and to the center. Andrews AFB is using a double-wide trailer as an alert facility. The DC Guard, which has been pulling alert duties for quite a while, built alert facilities for its crews, including facilities for female crewmembers and maintenance personnel. We plan to use what has been done in DC as a template for other units with a new alert commitment.

    F-16 Over Manhattan – How will the mission change in the coming months?

    Imagine being on orbit over a location in the United States, having an unknown aircraft at low altitude, and getting down to that aircraft through the FAA. Traditionally, we would have had to make a dozen frequency changes to be able to step down through that system. This isn’t a problem if a pilot is dealing with a known hijacked aircraft. But in many cases, we are dealing with unconfirmed threats. We have to go from being on a CAP to flying down through the system, to intercepting a suspect aircraft that may be flying in a TFR [temporary flight restriction] area. Our close working relationship with the FAA has made this possible. We have FAA representatives at all of our sectors, on all shifts, for twenty-four hours a day. They can talk immediately with all the levels. We have people working with them here as well. We have always had military people working at the FAA at the federal level. Our relationship with every agency and every service we’ve dealt with has been superb.

    F-16 from the Vermont ANG flying over Manhattan after the attack. Note the smoke emanating from where the World Trade Centers once were. Image: USAF

    One of the most difficult problems we’ve had is the ability to provide enough early airborne warning aircraft. Our AWACS have been overtasked. The Navy and the Customs Service have provided invaluable support in the form of Navy E-2 Hawkeyes and Customs dome-topped P-3 Orions.

    How will the Air National Guard deal with a sustained commitment, say a year or longer, to these extended or expanded mission requirements?

    The commitment is to the Air Force. Sure we have more Guard units involved in Noble Eagle because Guard units are located in almost every state across the country. Most active-duty Air Force units are also involved in this mission. People tend to think of air defense as a Guard mission. Look at a map of the northeastern states. You have to get to Virginia before you get to an active-duty unit that operates fighters. Most active-duty fighter units are in the southern United States. You have to go out West to Mountain Home in Idaho before you find a fighter unit in the northern part of the country. That’s why the ANG is so heavily involved in Noble Eagle.

    The commitment drives resources. We are stressed to do all the things we are tasked to do. We can meet all the commitments, but at a sacrifice to training. Fighter units that continue to have this tasking need to be properly resourced with the number of aircraft to perform the mission and to meet their other commitments. Every single unit in the 1st Air Force before 11 September was involved in the Aerospace Expeditionary Forces. The units had been involved in Operations Northern Watch and Southern Watch. They have been deployed to Panama, Curacao, and Iceland. Our F-15 units were dedicated NORAD fighters. But all three of those units have been to Iceland or to Operations Northern Watch and Southern Watch. We don’t want a new air defense command. We want an air force that can perform the sum total of missions that the air force is tasked to perform. I think additional resources will be required to do that.

    Does a sustained commitment imply new hardware requirements?

    Both the F-15 and the F-16 are superb for the air defense role. Our F-16s have VHF and UHF radios. Civilian aircraft are most likely to have a VHF radio. So we need VHF radios in all our aircraft. I don’t think we need to build airplanes specifically for this mission. We should have enough airplanes to perform this mission as well as meet our commitments for Northern Watch, Southern Watch, and Enduring Freedom and cover any other contingency. Sharing the load, spreading Noble Eagle missions over the entire Air Force, will make the tasking more sustainable.

    F-16 RefuelingAre there any misconceptions about the mission?

    As we get further away from 11 September, people may lose sight of the rigor needed to perform this mission. In December, we passed the 10,000-sortie point. We have done that in bad weather, twenty-four hours a day. Our people have done an extraordinary job sustaining this mission and supervising, flying, and maintaining those airplanes, tankers, and other support aircraft. I think this level of effort is sometimes lost on people not directly involved in it.

    Those who live in New York City or have visited ground zero and even the guys who fly over the top of it will tell you that you cannot begin to comprehend the damage through photos or television coverage. Anyone who has visited the damage will not lose sight of it. Nor do I think the people in the Pentagon who can see the big hole in the side of the building will ever forget.

    Do you still have time to fly yourself?

    Yes, but I haven’t flown in a Noble Eagle CAP mission because they would take me too far from the base. Still, I plan to fly the mission. I want to fly a CAP mission over New York City in particular.

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ce1RQVBKAA4


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  • Will Canada ever get its new fighter jets?

    The Canadian government has been on the hunt for a next-generation plane for its military. Six years on, there is no clear choice ahead.

    Justin Pierre James Trudeau, F-53A, CF-35, Canada, fighter jets, The Florida Pilot, TheFloridaPilot, general aviation news, military aviation news, Lockheed, Northrop Grumman, Boeing, SpaceX, Blue Origin, Virgin Galactic, Elon Musk, F-35A, F-35B, F-35C, B-2 Spirit, B-21 Raider, customaviationart, custom aviation art
    When Prime Minister Justin Trudeau took office in 2015, he canceled Canada’s sole-source F-35 contract as promised and prepared to open the competition to other companies. Pictured is my impression of a CF-35 assigned to the CF-35 Demonstration Team. Return to the Florida Pilot

    Canada Fighter Jets: Six years ago, Justin Trudeau promised to find the Royal Canadian Air Force a more affordable fighter jet than Lockheed Martin’s F-35. He pledged, if elected, he would scrap the deal and open a new competitive process to find a next-generation plane for the Canadian military. But not the F-35, he swore. Read more

    Justin Pierre James Trudeau, F-53A, CF-35, Canada, The Florida Pilot, TheFloridaPilot, general aviation news, military aviation news, Lockheed, Northrop Grumman, Boeing, SpaceX, Blue Origin, Virgin Galactic, Elon Musk, F-35A, F-35B, F-35C, B-2 Spirit, B-21 Raider, customaviationart, custom aviation art
    My impression of a CF-35 in its work colors intercepting a Russian sub in the North Atlantic.

    Justin Pierre James Trudeau PC MP, born December 25, 1971, is a Canadian politician who is the 23rd and current prime minister of Canada since November 2015 and the leader of the Liberal Party since 2013. Trudeau is the second-youngest prime minister in Canadian history after Joe Clark; he is also the first to be the child or other relative of a previous holder of the post, as the eldest son of Pierre Trudeau.

    Trudeau is fighting his second reelection campaign and Canada has still not committed to a new plane for the Royal Canadian Air Force. Read more

    Justin Pierre James Trudeau, F-53A, CF-35, Canada, The Florida Pilot, TheFloridaPilot, general aviation news, military aviation news, Lockheed, Northrop Grumman, Boeing, SpaceX, Blue Origin, Virgin Galactic, Elon Musk, F-35A, F-35B, F-35C, B-2 Spirit, B-21 Raider, customaviationart, custom aviation art
    Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau attends a plenary session during G-7 summit in Carbis Bay on June 13, 2021, in Cornwall, United Kingdom. Image: Politico/Phil Noble – WPA Pool/Getty Images
    This is the March 2013 Air Forces Monthly article I did the illustration for. This debate has been long and ongoing.

  • SpaceX’s First Orbital-class Super Heavy Booster Rejoins Starship at the Launchpad
    SpaceX, starship, booster, The Florida Pilot, TheFloridaPilot, general aviation news, military aviation news, Lockheed, Northrop Grumman, Boeing, SpaceX, Blue Origin, Virgin Galactic, Elon Musk, F-35A, F-35B, F-35C, B-2 Spirit, B-21 Raider, customaviationart, custom aviation art
    Super Heavy Booster 4 rolls to Starbase’s Orbital Launchpad for the second time. Image: Starship Gazer Full story – return to The Florida Pilot

    SpaceX Starship: For the second time in five weeks, SpaceX has rolled Starship’s first orbital-class Super Heavy booster from its Starbase factory to the launchpad ahead of a challenging and multifaceted test campaign.

    Deemed Super Heavy Booster 4 or B4, the 69m (~225 ft) tall rocket first rolled to the launch pad around August 3rd after SpaceX technicians fitted it with 29 Raptor engines in a single night. Followed by orbital-class Starship prototype S20 a few days later, the two stages of a Starship were stacked to their full height on August 6th, briefly creating the largest rocket ever assembled. Ship 20 was then quickly returned to the build site, where SpaceX workers completed an additional ~10 days of finishing touches – mainly focused on avionics wiring and secondary plumbing.

    A week later, Booster 4 followed Ship 20 back to Starbase’s ‘high bay,’ where teams ultimately removed all 29 of its Raptor engines and spent the next four or so weeks performing similar final integration work. Now, after installing what looks like hundreds of feet of wiring, dozens of additional gas and fluid lines, compressed gas tanks, hydraulic ‘sleds’ SpaceX’s first flightworthy Super Heavy has once again returned to the launch site. Read more

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=D1WgEY64QGw