As promised, here is the continuation of my "To Kansas!" trip report. Part 1 (available here: To Kansas Pt. 1 On DL, F9, And SeaPort's PC-12! (by KPWMSpotter May 31 2012 in Trip Reports) ) detailed my trip out to Salina, including MCO-BOS on DL, BOS-MCI on F9, and MCI-SLN on a SeaPort Pilatus PC-12. This portion of the trip report will detail my two weeks in Salina for NIFA's SAFECON national flight competition, including lots of spotting in Salina and surrounding airports. Some highlights below: The Kansas Aviation Museum in Wichita, NASA's atmospheric research DC-8, a local flight around Salina, and more Cessna 150's than you want to see!
Additionally, to make this a real trip report, I'll include my flight home from Salina on Delta, flying ICT-ATL-DAB in Y.
So, picking up where I left off. I stepped off of SeaPort's PC-12 at the Salina airport and headed to my hotel with my team mates from the Embry-Riddle Eagle's Flight Team (not to be confused with the Golden Eagle's Flight Team from the Prescott campus - they're the one's who won nationals, we're the ones with the awesome aircraft recognition team...) The next morning I was up bright and early, headed back to the airport to help support the team's flight operations over the next two weeks.
NIFA's SAFECON event is a one-week competition, with an additional week prior designated as official practice time. Most schools arrive between 3 and 7 days prior to the start of actual competition so that their pilots can familiarize themselves with the area and pound out as many practice spot-landings as possible. I wasn't competing in any flight events this year, leaving me to practice for the aircraft recognition test, help move planes around on the ramp, and generally just hang out at an FBO for days at a time.
Riddle 385, a couple thousand miles away from home.
Our flight team brought five planes to competition, three Cessna 172SPs and two Cessna 162 Skycatchers. The three Skyhawks were used to compete in the precision navigation event and the message drop event (yes, there's a flight event where you chuck things out of an airplane), while the Skycatchers were used for the power-on (short field) and power off precision landing events.
A few days into the practice week, I decided to ride along on a practice navigation run. The nav event is pretty simple in concept; the pilots are handed a sheet of checkpoints and Lat/Long coordinates, they plan and fly a route between them, and a GPS tracker deducts points for deviation from the route, ground-speed, altitude, or fuel burn. Essentially I was riding along for an hour long sightseeing ride of the Salina, KS area.
KSLN - KSLN
Flight # ERAU 389
Equipment:Cessna 172SP (N389ER)
Scheduled Departure: N/A Actual Departure: 11:30
Scheduled Arrival: N/A Actual Arrival: 12:38
My ride for this morning's flight around Kansas.
Even better view than from a PC-12 window!
Better flight instruments than a PC-12 too...
Without giving away too many trade-secrets of the nav event, I'll say that having a Garmin G1000 equipped aircraft and mastering its functions makes the event much easier than it was in the old-days of visual navigation. Nav routes have come down to times of +/- 3 or 4 seconds from the planned time, and fuel burn deviation of less than a tenth of a gallon.
The flight I took around Salina brought us about 40 miles to the Northwest, before heading South and back towards the airport.
The back seat of a Cessna 172 can actually be pretty comfortable, as long as there isn't someone else back there with you. It's hard to fit four adults in a Cessna and still be within CG limits, which is a good thing. Leg room is comparable to airliner seating (depending on how tall the pilots are), but the cabin width becomes a problem pretty quickly. Compared to other light aircraft the 172SP is actually very quiet in the cabin, still much noisier than any jetliner though.
Our aircraft were all tied down at Flower Aviation, an FBO about mid-field down the 12,000ft runway. With ample runway available, ATC was sending aircraft to depart from a midfield taxiway directly adjacent to the FBO. It feels odd to depart with half of the runway behind you, but even one half of Salina's runway is still 2000ft longer than the runway we typically practice at.
Speaking of PC-12s, SeaPort's mid-day service landing on 35 as we hold short.
Facing into the stiff Kansas wind, our ground roll was well, well under 1000ft and we were nearing pattern altitude by the end of the runway.
Now this looks like what I expected Kansas to be...
Oh hey, a Lockheed Constellation! Unfortunately this plane was parked at a totally inaccessible end of the ramp, almost a mile from the FBO...
Massive wind farm, 10 miles west of Salina.
After about an hour of flying the Nav run through bumpy air we headed back to SLN for landing. On downwind we requested a short approach to a long landing, in order to shorten the potential mile of taxiing back to the ramp. Salina tower didn't seem very comfortable working the volume of traffic that had suddenly shown up at his airport, as he denied the request due to traffic ahead which had already landed...
Back inbound for Salina, crossing the extended centerline to enter a right downwind for 35.
On base, flaps 20.
Welcome to Salina, KS...again.
On landing James (the pilot flying for the landing) didn't touch the brakes, simply holding the nose up for aerodynamic braking as we rolled down the runway. I looked behind me at the tail and was slightly shocked by its proximity to the ground. "James, you may want to watch your tail, you have a little extra weight back here..." The tail skid hovered just inches off the ground for the entire roll-out until the nose wheel came down for the taxiway turnoff. Not bad soft field technique...
As I was climbing out of the plane I heard a helicopter, no, two helicopters overhead. I looked up to see two fully armed Kiowa Warriors departing from the taxiway. There is an Air National Guard base in Salina, military helicopters were a common sight throughout the week.
Pair of Kiowa Warriors, fully armed with rockets and Hellfire missiles.
Later in the day I noticed something much, much more interesting on Flightaware...
Something far more interesting than a C172 on final.
NASA's airborne laboratory DC-8! More on that later.
NASA's airborne laboratory DC-8 arrived to make Salina its summer base. I managed to arrange a tour of the aircraft later in the week, so more on that below.
Business jet traffic was relatively frequent, mostly small jets stopping in for fuel and immediately departing. Very few aircraft stuck around for long.
USA Jet Dassault Falcon 20, in for a gas-n-go. The first officer didn't seem to like the fact that his aircraft was being photographed, loudly describing Salina into his telephone as "an orgy of airplane nerds!"
This SeaPort bird could use a wash...
Another quick fuel stop, Bombardier Learjet 60, N301RJ.
Sweet paint on this Citation Mustang. Not a single line on the paint scheme is exactly the same width or same distance apart.
Just as nice looking on the inside.
KC-135 from McConnell AFB making use of Salina's ample runway for some touch and gos.
T-38 Talon from the 509th Bomb Wing, the same unit that dropped the bomb on Hiroshima and "captured a flying saucer at Roswell".
Robinson R-22 from K-State's aviation program.
As more and more schools arrived to practice in Salina, it became much harder to get landing practice in. At the end of the first week, we decided to take the two Skycatchers and fly 20 miles East to the town of Abilene, KS. Abilene's single runway had almost the exact dimensions of the runway used for competition in Salina, so it was a good fit for some extra practice.
Abilene, Kansas, the home and final resting place of President Eisenhower.
Oh hey, it looks like they put the wing on upside down! This is a rare Cessna low-wing single, the C-188 Ag-Truck.
San Diego Christian College joining us for some practice, using their coach's C182RG for some message drop runs.
162 (probably the most appropriately registered plane in the Riddle fleet) drilling more holes in the sky.
The following weekend we made a trip South to Wichita, touring the Cessna Citation line, the Bombardier Learjet facility, and visiting the Kansas Aviation Museum at McConnell AFB. Photos weren't allowed at Cessna or Learjet, but I took plenty at the museum.
Touring Cessna, I got the impression that the company is currently being run by marketing executives rather than engineers or pilots. The factory itself was very quiet, with very little work being done on the jet lines (the Caravan line seemed quite busy though), while the tour guides focused on flashy sales pitches rather than the technical benefits of their aircraft.
At Bombardier Learjet on the other hand, the factory workers seemed quite proud of their machines and ready to show them off. While Learjet's factory wasn't as modern as Cessna's, the atmosphere felt much more like a place I'd like to work. While I was visiting the factory, we were shown a couple of roped off areas that we technically weren't supposed to know about - new tooling jigs and a display stage being set up. We were told to watch the news the following Monday, that was all they were allowed to say. Sure enough, on Monday the new Learjet 70 and 75 models were introduced. Learjet's whole facility was very technically oriented, with a very active flight testing program (the prototype models of the Lear 40, 45, Challenger 300, and Dash-8 Q400 are stored in Wichita). I certainly wouldn't mind working with their flight test program some day...
The Kansas Aviation museum housed an impressive collection of aircraft, all of which were built in Kansas. The museum is housed in the original terminal of the Wichita Municipal Airport. The Wichita Municipal airport was built as a civil field, before being taken over by the Air Force to become McConnell AFB. The 1920's architecture of the terminal still remains in immaculate condition. Unfortunately, the museum was hit by a tornado just weeks before my visit and the aircraft sitting out on the open ramp suffered some extensive damage.
Part of the Kansas Aviation Museum's ramp, featuring aircraft all built in Wichita. Behind is the Boeing/Spirit Aerosystems plant at McConnell AFB.
USAF C-17 Globemaster III landing in the distance.
One of the museum's very rare pieces: The sole prototype of the Beechcraft Model 73 Jet Mentor, a derivative of the T-34 that competed against the T-37 and the Temco Pinto.
Another rare artifact at the museum, a full cockpit section salvaged from a...
Beechcraft 2000 Starship! I still want to see one in flight, but being able to see one in person is a good start.
Caution, traffic 11, 12, and 1 o'clock, half mile - a B-52, F-84, and B-47!
The museum's collection was almost sad, seeing such rare and historic aircraft out in the open, dented and damaged from the recent damage, but the indoors museum was in great shape. Plus the gift shop had a 1970s Janes Aviation Yearbook I was able to pick up for only $19, overall a successful side-trip!
As the week progressed in Salina more NIFA competitors arrived at the airport and NIFA took control of operations. Instead of allowing aircraft to taxi under their own power across the busy ramp, NIFA instituted a start-up/shut-down box procedure, where aircraft had to be pushed to and from designated "hot boxes" on the ramp. The procedure made for more work, but was also an excuse to be out on the ramp all day as part of the aircraft push crew.
As the rest of the schools arrived for the competition the ramp filled up with about 120 small aircraft, mostly Cessna 150s and 172s, with a mix of Piper, Cirrus, and Diamond products thrown in.
Riddle Daytona's spot landing aircraft, Cessna 162 Skycatcher serial number 10.
Riddle Prescott's spot lander, classic 1965 Cessna 150E.
One of the USAF Academy's suped-up 150's. (No afterburners fitted that I can see, but a huge engine for a Cessna 150.)
By far the ballsiest aircraft flying at NIFA, 2006 T182T Skylane.
NIFA's landing competitions run at a pretty intense schedule, with heats of four aircraft departing every 5-10 minutes. The queue for the hot-box tends to stack up four or five heats deep, putting a lot of aircraft into a small space at one time.
Aircraft beginning to line up in the "Hot Box" start-up box.
Line of Cessnas returning from a landing heat.
ERAU ground crew marshalling a Skycatcher in after a landings event.
Mid-way through the week a representative from the National Center for Atmospheric Research posted a sign-up sheet for tours of the NCAR Gulfstream V and the NASA DC-8 stationed at the other side of the airport. I signed myself up immediately for the tour.
Both the G-V and the DC-8 are in Salina as part of the "DC3 Project" an experiment measuring the transport of chemicals through the atmosphere during convective storms. The G-V is equipped to fly at high altitude around thunderstorms, collecting samples, while the NASA DC-8 and a DLR Falcon 20 (not yet at the airport) circle below and inside the thunderstorm collecting lower level samples. All in all it seemed like a pretty cool project with some awesome aircraft.
The NCAR G-V is funded by the National Science Foundation and is based in Boulder, Colorado. The aircraft is equipped with three hard-points on each wing which can accept various sensors and scientific payloads. The plane is also equipped to carry optical (i.e. laser) equipment in the fuselage. The aircraft was built in 2002 and was delivered directly to NCAR as an atmospheric laboratory.
Notice anything odd on this G-V's wing?
The least luxurious Gulfstream cabin I've ever seen.
Still looks good up front...
Sensor hard-points bolted to the wing.
Unlike the NCAR G-V, NASA's DC-8 did not start its life as a flying laboratory. The aircraft, a DC-8-72 was built as a DC-8-62 for Alitalia in 1969. The aircraft flew for Alitalia, Braniff, and the "Quiet Nacelle Corporation" before being retrofitted with CFM-56s in 1986 and being bought by NASA.
The aircraft currently operates as a lower-atmospheric research aircraft, outfitted with numerous interchangeable sensor packages for measuring pollution, ozone, or whatever other atmospheric phenomenon are under study in its current mission. The DC-8 is taking part in the DC3 project for the beginning of the summer, before returning to Dryden to be retrofitted for a different scientific mission.
Yep, that's a DC-8 nose alright.
Based at the Dryden Flight Center and bristling with sensors.
Never thought I'd be taking a boarding door shot on a DC-8.
As I was stepping aboard the DC-8 I heard a loud jet make a pass over the airport. Stepping back outside I watched a NASA T-38 Talon land and taxi to the NIFA ramp. I don't think the T-38 was afilliated with the DC-8 project, it set itself up for display for an hour or so before departing again.
What's this? Another NASA aircraft has decided to join the crowd on the NIFA ramp?
Not much has been upgraded up here.
Probably my favorite shot of the whole trip, another one I never expected to have the chance to take.
It wasn't long before the two weeks were up and the competition was over. Strong winds, in excess of 40kts at times, prevented all of the landing events from being completed, but overall it was a successful week of flying.
Sun rising over the ramp for the last day of competition.
In case anyone's wondering about the Aircraft Recognition test, I placed 5th overall with a score of 161/180; not bad considering that the top 8 places were within a nine-point range, and the top three actually tied. This year's test was created by A.Net's own "2H4" - apparently his tricky pictures tricked everyone, and his not-so-tricky ones were...a little too easy. Anyways, I'm shooting for first next year...
Shortly after the awards banquet ended I packed up and headed South to the Wichita airport. Sadly I wasn't able to work another SeaPort PC-12 into this leg of my trip.
KICT - KATL
Flight # ASQ 5320
Equipment:Bombardier CRJ-700 (N723EV)
Scheduled Departure: 11:00 Actual Departure: 11:00
Scheduled Arrival: 13:50 Actual Arrival: 13:40
Wichita's airport reminded me a lot of my home airport, PWM. In overall size and number of flights Wichita is about equivalent to PWM, hosting only CRJs with any frequency punctuated by occasional mainline aircraft. Compared to Portland's terminal, ICT feels slightly more cramped and slightly older. Despite the architecture not having changed since the terminal was built in the 1960s the interior was clean and well maintained. Apparently a new terminal is currently under construction, scheduled to replace the existing terminal in 2014.
Welcome to the Wichita Airport, population...maybe a dozen?
Characteristic of the airport, just lots of long brick hallways.
ICT's security checkpoint is a single lane walk-through metal-detector, haphazardly placed in the middle of the airport's central hallway (like MCI, ICT was built before security screening was widely implemented in the US). Immediately after screening the terminal breaks into two "fingers" which contain the gates and waiting areas. From outside the terminal looks like a large brick "Y" suspended above the ground on pillars.
Ah, finally! an airplane! CRJ-700, N723EV
The opposite concourse, distinctly lacking in aircraft.
The CRJ-700 operating the flight to Atlanta had already arrived when I made it to the gate. A single gate agent was working the flight and performed some of the most unique gate announcements I've ever heard. As the gate agent picked up the microphone I was already reciting in my head "Ladies and Gentlemen, welcome to Delta's flight...5320 non-stop service to Atlanta, for those of you with large rollaboard type bags this is a small aircraft today..." etc, etc. Instead, what I heard was "Hi everybody! Welcome to Atlanta! If some of ya'll want to come up and pink-tag your bags we can do that now! We'll start boarding soon!" All of the same information was there, just a slightly different style...
Checking in online I'd managed to snag myself seat 8D, a window seat towards the front of the plane. A few of my team-mates on the same flight were stuck in the last few rows at the back. Boarding the aircraft I found the entirety of row 8 already occupied and a Flight Attendant standing in row 9. As I approached the seat-poacher in 8D, the Flight Attendant intervened: "She doesn't speak any English, why don't you go ahead and take 6B, it should stay open." Two and a half hours in a CRJ is bad enough, but 2.5 hours in an aisle seat? No thanks. I reluctantly took 6B, but later found one of my team-mates in the back of the plane in 13D. His seat-mate in 13C was happy to move up to row six, so I still ended up in an aisle seat, but at least with easy access to the window if I wanted it...
Onboard and seated (finally) on this entirely full flight.
As it turns out, the window seat wasn't much of an issue anyways. The views were bland and cloudy, and I promptly fell asleep after the drink service was offered.
The onboard service was one of the most generous I've encountered on a Delta flight. The flight attendant serving coach was energetic and generous, offering full cans of juice and soda and handfulls of peanuts, pretzels, or cookies. After she completed serving the aircraft she even came back through with the cart, offering refills or more snacks. Even though the flight was long enough to qualify for "EATS" fresh food for sale, Delta Connection flights aren't catered with any fresh food offerings (per the flight attendant). I would have bought one of their Caesar Chicken wraps had it been available, but I guess Delta just lost out on my $7. I had plenty of pretzels and Biscoff instead.
As the drink cart came past my seat I noticed that it was stamped in several places with the Northwest Airlines logo, surprising on an ASA/Expressjet aircraft which never flew for NWA. To add to the airline confusion, the aircraft was titled as "Delta Connection operated by Expressjet" (reflecting the recent merger of ASA and Expressjet), while the crew referred to the flight as "Operated by Atlantic Southeast Airlines." Old habit, or resentment of the merger, I'm not sure.
We landed on 9R in Atlanta after a couple of short delaying vectors, rolling out past Atlanta's new Terminal F (I'll hopefully have a TR including the new terminal within the month) and parking on the West side of the D concourse. My scheduled layover in Atlanta was just 50 minutes, just about the minimum time for a comfortable connection at Hartsfield. I walked up to my gate for Atlanta in the A concourse just as pre-boarding was being called (this time in Delta's very-scripted standard announcement.)
KATL - KDAB
Flight # DL 1019
Equipment:McDonnell Douglas MD-88 (N995DL)
Scheduled Departure: 14:55 Actual Departure: 14:55
Scheduled Arrival: 16:15 Actual Arrival: 16:04
Being based in Atlanta for my internship at Delta TechOps, I've become very, very, very familiar with the MD-88. Looking back through my records, I've flown the MD-88 almost 20 times in the last year and a half. I've logged another 3 flights on the MD-90 and one on the DC-9. Delta's fleet of 117 MD-88s is the backbone of the Atlanta medium-haul operation, operating to nearly every east coast destination with mainline service. The ever-growing MD-90 fleet is now 41 strong and continuing to expand. Some day soon I suspect I'll look at the MD-90 and think "aww crap, just another MD-90? I want to fly something rare and interesting!"
Hello again 995DL, only my 18th MD-88 in the last year...
The short flight to Daytona was packed, 100% full when one or two non-revs made it aboard. I was surprised to see that many of the passengers were young groups of college students who looked like they were heading to spring break. Odd, since spring break season ended a month or two ago (and since Daytona hasn't been a big spring break spot since the mid 1990's...)
Onboard, waiting for the plane to pack full of retirees and spring break travelers (a combination not very conducive to fast boarding...)
Of course, I had to fit a mandatory leg room shot somewhere in this trip report...
With no adverse weather affecting Atlanta's operation, pushback was on time within a minute or two. A 757 stopped on the ramp delayed taxi for a minute or two, but a short taxi brought us to 9L with only one or two planes in our way.
Looks like they're ready for something exciting to happen, not with our plane I hope.
Takeoff was powerful, a true MD-88 style launch off of the runway. Engine noise is very minimal at the front of the cabin, so takeoff thrust comes as a silent surge of power pushing you into your seat. Noise from air flowing over the cabin is also minimal right after takeoff. The first minute or so of flight feels almost eerie, silently being launched into the sky. After the flaps and slats retract (I've said it before and I'll say it again - I love the sound of the slats retracting on the MD-88, that pneumatic *scchhhhllllooop-schoop* just sounds like the plane's saying "alright, enough of that, let's go fast now!") air noise quickly picks up, on par with most other narrowbody types.
See 'ya Atlanta, be back in two days!
Climbing over the Forrest Park industrial area.
Looks like a good day to fly a glider! Cumulus markers everywhere!
With a block time of 0:50, ATL-DAB is right on the edge of Delta's snack service / no snack service cutoff. I've only flown the route once where snack service wasn't performed. Regardless, service is Delta's "short service" with limited drink options and only peanuts available. Apparently the last two or three rows on this flight didn't receive any service, as we began our descent before the flight attendants could finish.
Delta's "short" service, just drinks and Peanuts (no pretzel or Biscoff choice, to save time.)
Out over the water, avoiding all those pesky Cessnas clogging the airspace over the land. Just passing the Ormond Beach Airport.
By the time my cup and empty peanut wrapper were collected we were on a very wide left downwind for 7L in Daytona, flying East over the Atlantic before cutting back West for a long final.
Short final for 7L, passing over the Daytona Beach flea market and Interstate 95.
Exiting the runway just past Yelvington Jet Aviation and their new resident Convair 580.
Well, it looks like I'm back. Embry-Riddle's Daytona Beach campus, just across the airport.
The MD-88 is a lot better at flying than it is at landing, deceleration in the MD-88 always seems rough with sticking brakes or fast deceleration. Soon enough I was back in Daytona Beach, collecting my bags, and getting ready to drive back up to Atlanta to begin my last semester as an intern at Delta. Over the summer I hope to have plenty of non-rev trip reports to contribute and lots more airplane photos. Next year I'll be back at Embry-Riddle for my last year of Aerospace Engineering and my last year of competing with NIFA (next year's competition is up at Ohio State - any suggestions for flying to Columbus on interesting and rare planes would be great!)
Hope you've all enjoyed my trip report, and as always, comments and questions are welcome and appreciated! Thanks!
NIFA SAFECON: My week in Salina was exactly the aviation vacation I hoped it would be; two whole weeks without coursework, simply focusing on memorizing aircraft types and meeting other pilots from around the country. For those of you currently in College or looking at schools, I highly recommend finding a NIFA team to compete with, it's a unique and very beneficial experience. If any of you reading this are currently at Embry-Riddle Daytona, we need to recruit some good talent for next year, if you're interested let me know, I want to make sure our Aircraft Recognition team continues to be one of the best in the nation!
Delta Air Lines: Delta was, as it usually is, consistent. With the exception of the Wichita gate agent, everything was per Delta's corporate image and expectations for efficient and pleasant service. There's not much to differentiate domestic US carriers these days; the best thing most airlines can do is don't screw up. Delta certainly didn't do anything wrong on this trip, delivering me on time, in relative comfort, for a decent price. For a short domestic hop, there's not much more I can say...
Past Reports for your reading pleasure...
To Kansas Pt. 1 On DL, F9, And SeaPort's PC-12! (by KPWMSpotter May 31 2012 in Trip Reports)
A Domestic US Sampling MCO-PWM-DAB On CO & US (by KPWMSpotter Apr 12 2012 in Trip Reports)
FRA On DL Business Elite + Amtrak & DL Domestic Y (by KPWMSpotter Jan 6 2012 in Trip Reports)
Maine For Thanksgiving On US And Cape Air! (by KPWMSpotter Nov 29 2011 in Trip Reports)
ATL-AMS/DUS-ATL, DL F + ICE Train And Köln (by KPWMSpotter Nov 1 2011 in Trip Reports)
ATL-PWM-DTW-ATL, DL Y + New PWM Terminal (by KPWMSpotter Oct 31 2011 in Trip Reports)
ATL-SLC-SUN & Back DL F, Flying The Brasilia (by KPWMSpotter Sep 5 2011 in Trip Reports)
PWM-MCO, STL-MSP-DTW-PWM +NIFA (LONG!) (by KPWMSpotter Aug 10 2009 in Trip Reports)
MCO-JFK-PWM On JetBlue (by