Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Plane Spotting with Google

I was doing my daily read yesterday and saw a good post at Military Photos Network about Google Earth/Maps regarding the current picture of the Dobbins Air Reserve Base at Marietta Georgia. Seems the picture taken of the base captured the test flight of an F-22 aircraft which are built at the large Lockheed run Air Force plant on that facility.

I do this quite often, Plane Spotting using Google Earth/Maps. The art of Plane Spotting finds its origins in loose groups of people that assemble at Airports and Military bases with their cameras at hand awaiting the arrival or departure of something new or unusual. This is especially popular in England and in many countries of Europe. Not so much here except with the exception of the famous Area 51 in Nevada. I think the start of this activity was mainly with Anti-War demonstrators but grew into Aviation Enthusiasts spending time at the ends of runways in hopes of catching interesting flying apparatus.

I grew up on the West Mesa of Albuquerque and saw a lot of interesting aircraft flying in and out of the Air Force Base there, Kirtland AFB in fact. B-52's, F-111's the occasional U-2 and droves of C-130's and C-135's in their many variants. Seems the Air Force was doing interesting things and some important testing out of Kirtland and as a result I got to see these comings and goings. It has stayed with me.
During my Navy days while shore based I was always interested in what was parked out at the Transient Line (OV-10 Bronco flown by the INS/Customs service, NASA WB-57, NASA U-2, Air Force FB-111) and any time I got to go somewhere there were flying vehicles other than the ordinary Navy stuff I would go along excited. My visits to Barksdale AFB Langley AFB and Tinker AFB are ripe with aircraft that were very much different than what I saw every day in the Navy.
I continue this activity today using Google Earth/Maps. I love zooming in on that long straight line that turns into an airport and looking around the various flight lines and ramp areas. It is fascinating to view these places just to see what you find.

Here are some screen captures of my latest GE Adventure:

We start close to Home, this is the Joint Reserve Base Willow Grove (formerly the Naval Air Station Willow Grove) where we see some Air Force A-10's and C-130's, a bunch of Marine CH-53's and over on the Navy line we find some old C-9's and C-130's also.

But when you zoom in on the southeast end of the base, over by where the Pitcairn Auto Gyro factory is at we find a lonely C-1 Trader. The reason there is an air field here in this area of PA is that Auto Gyro factory. For many years in the 1930's and '40's this factory produced Auto Gyro's in fact some of the first Air Mail was flown in Auto Gyros built here at the Pitcairn facility.

Here is a close shot of what is parked on the Andrews AFB tarmac. On the left is one of them special VIP 757's used to haul Congressional delegations all around the world. Next to that on the right is what I believe is a 747, perhaps one of the two used to haul the President. There were a few of them NancyPelosi-Mobiles around the flight line here as well.

Here is an overhead shot of Langley AFB, this is a rare find: F-22's. 15 of them nestled in between all those rows of F-15's. Lovely site, this base also has several Wind Tunnels that are slightly interesting to look upon.

While we are in the Tidewater area of Virginia we might as well get a look down at the big Navy Base. I used to ride aircraft carriers out of this place so let's see what is tied up today.
Well, we have three down there. Two Nimitz class and the original and first nuclear powered Carrier the U.S.S. Enterprise, she is in the middle in this picture. The giveaway is those two fingers that stick out of the flight deck on the bow, those are called "Bridal Arrest Boom's" and were used when we used to shoot aircraft with wire bridals instead of the Nose Tow that we do now. The bottom pier in this picture is fairly new; it was under construction when I made my last sortie out of here (back in 1982) on the U.S.S. Dwight D. Eisenhower. Pier 12 is at the top and had always been the home of the large ships that called NOB home.

In this next picture I have scrolled over to the Portsmouth Naval Shipyard, since I have also spent time here in dry dock on both of the carriers I was assigned. Neither trip was enjoyable by the way. You can see here submarines up on blocks getting some TLC. There was nothing in the big lock that they park the aircraft carriers when they have to go up on the wood.

But over here is the U.S.S. Wisconsin (BB-64), she looks good from up here.

Next we move on down to suburban Atlanta Georgia where we see that F-22 landing at Dobbins AFB. It is trailed by an F-16 which is harder to see but its shadow gives it away.

Another shot of that same Base, this is an area where I worked at one summer. Lockheed had the S-3 Integration lab inside that big hanger in the center with the C-5 sticking out. You can also see the 8 C-130's that were built for Libya but never delivered. They have been out there rotting away for more than 20 years. I still have a Lockheed badge to get me into this facility, I'd simply mail it to them but I get $5.00 back if I can ever get down there and turn it over to them personally.

Next we move down to Robbins AFB further south from Atlanta where we see some C-5's and C-17's hanging out. This is a big transshipment point for cargo heading to the war zones. Plenty busy down there.

Next we move down the Florida panhandle and see a little of what is going on here at Eglin AFB. In this shot you can see a C-130 landing over there on the left but in the center there are a couple of F-16's holding on the numbers for takeoff to the north or top. They look like tiny marks here but you can tell what they are in the tighter resolution.

Over here is Hulbert Field and we catch a C-130 after takeoff, climbing out. Might this be one of them Combat Talon C-130's? Can't tell as the resolution is not good enough to pick out the guns that would poke out the left side. I went here looking for those new fangled Project Liberty aircraft but there were none to be found.
Here is a picture of another place I like to hang over; it's the Nevada Test Site or NTS. It is where we used to test atomic bombs. From 1951 to 1992 the government detonated more than 1000 atomic bombs here. Some were done on the surface, some were atmospheric (tower shots or dropped by aircraft or balloon) and a large number of them were underground. This shot shows the craters from many of the shots in an area called Yucca Flats; it is one of the busier areas for atomic tests.

In this shot, which is at the north end of the Yucca Flats area is what they call the "Sedan" crater. That great big hole in the ground was caused by a 104 kiloton Operation Plowshare shot exploring of all things peaceful ways to use atomic bombs. I guess if you needed a big hole in the ground for disposal of trash or something like that, this is the bomb for you! That crater is 1280 feet wide and more than 300 feet deep. Anyway, this crater is on the National List of Historic places and gets more than 10,000 visitors a year. This place is a tourist trap!!

Just a little to the east from here, across that small mountain range is the famous Area 51. This is a wide shot, the Yucca Flats area is just to the left in this picture.

Here is a close up of the base itself, nothing interesting here, just a couple of UH-60 Blackhawk helo's and two 737 aircraft. No Alien Space craft or super top secret Air Force aircraft laying out in the sun. Dang the bad luck.

Way over here is a look down on San Diego bay and the Ballast Point Submarine base. Those little square boxes are Marine Mammal holding pens.

Here is a close up and you can actually see the shapes of various marine mammals being trained for security duties by the Navy.

These last two shots are from Alaska, this first one is at Eielson AFB and those are B-1B bombers down there. This last shot is the most interesting I've culled so far. It is just south of Eielson and a tad bit east, part of the Fort Greely complex. You can make out several F-15's and their shelters although, none of them are actually in their shelters. You can make out the taxi way's leading to what may be a runway. I have never seen so much camouflage used to hide both the aircraft and the runways as well but not the aircraft shelters. Interesting and I have a lot more questions than I do answers.

Another area that one should sweep over is the Davis-Monthan AFB outside of Tucson Arizona, also known as the Aircraft Graveyard or any of the Navy's ship storage areas (there is one up the river from Norfolk) which I find fascinating. So, out you go, happy hunting.

BT: Jimmy T sends.


Buck said...

Dang... these screen shots just CRY out for enlargement!

re: Plane spotting. I spent a year on and around Edwards AFB back in the '70s and the plane spotting there was excellent!

JimmyT said...

Buck, evey now and then Blogger cooperates, not this time however. I would have loved being at the end of the runway at Edwards at anytime from the 60's to the early 80's. There was a lot of stuff in the air in them days.

BT: Jimmy T sends.