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Wednesday
Feb222017

Flying into Writing: LA Photo-Shoot

By Eric McCarthy

Climbing out of Palomar (KCRQ) on the Alpha North departure, we remained relatively low as we turned north over the coastline. Cleared to change frequencies, we contacted SoCal Approach and requested VFR Flight Following for our photo mission in the LA Basin. We had several sites to photograph, the most challenging of which would be a site just south of downtown Los Angeles. I knew we’d be handed off a few times before we got to our sites, so I made sure they knew we had several sites but focused on the first and second when describing our intentions.

I’m happy to provide detailed descriptions of our proposed routing, but I didn’t want to tie up the frequency unless requested to. I also know from experience that little of my explanation would be passed on to the next controller; they’re busy and primarily want to know where we’re headed on this leg, what altitude we’ll be at over the target, when we’re “on-station,” when we’re done, and where we’re headed next. Much beyond that is superfluous.

As we approached Oceanside, the controller reminded us that R-2503A was active, so we planned our flight to be about two miles off the coast to avoid Camp Pendleton’s traffic. Approaching John Wayne (KSNA), we descended to 1,300’ to remain clear of their Class C airspace. The plan was to fly to Emmy and Eva, the two oil platforms just off the coast north of the Huntington Beach Pier, then fly over the Seal Beach VOR (SLI), and Los Alamitos AAF (KSLI) to the first target. 

Upon reaching the oil platforms, SoCal requested that we continue on our “present heading” for traffic, but quickly cleared us to turn on course and transit the Los Alamitos airspace at 1,500’. Our site was about eight miles north of the airport, in an industrial park in the congested Norwalk area. I identified our site a few miles out, and we prepared for the photos. I turned over the controls to my trusty copilot, Jerry, strapped on the Nikon, opened the window, and slid the seat back. A few turns over the target, and we were off to find the LA site.

Downtown Los Angeles (Eric McCarthy)We had to stay down low to remain clear of the Class Bravo, which started at 2,000’ along our route. ATC called traffic ahead, and we spotted a police helicopter crossing our path 500’ below and a couple of miles in the distance. As we approached downtown Los Angeles, we located our next target site just a few hundred yards from the high-rise buildings towering over the city, their tops reaching to our altitude. The location provided us with a spectacular view of the great skyscrapers of the city and the Hollywood hills beyond.

At our location, the controllers turned LAX traffic from downwind to base directly overhead. We had airliners of all description passing over us as we circled the site, but the most impressive were the big Boeings and Airbuses, like this Emirates Airbus A380, turning base for runway 24R. With a takeoff weight of more than 1.2 million pounds, an overall length of 238 feet, and a wingspan of 261 feet, the double-decker A380 is a big bird, and it looks even bigger when it’s hanging, apparently motionless, a mere 1,500’ over you!

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Wednesday
Feb222017

Crash Landing at Kimbolton, England – 1944 After a Bombing Raid Over Germany – in His Own Words

By Barbara Title

Byrd “Bert” Ryland in uniform. (Courtesy Barbara Title)“Our target that day was Hanover, Germany. Right after the bombs, we received three close hits that not only knocked out number four engine and caught number three engine on fire but also injured my co-pilot in the right leg, and my bombardier was also wounded in the upper leg. We went from 27,000 feet to approximately 5,000 feet in a spin. As we got it under control at 5,000 feet, the fire went out on number three, and we were able to feather it. By throwing out most of our equipment, we were able to maintain altitude across the North Sea. The crew took care of the wounded, and the co-pilot stayed in his seat to help me control the aircraft.

When the crew inspected the aircraft prior to trying to land my ball turret, gunner told me that the left main gear was partially hanging down and was holding on by hydraulic lines only. I couldn’t get any indication of gear condition, so the engineer tried to crank it down. It still didn’t come down, and I elected to land it in that condition, as I couldn’t have gone around after an approach and sure as hell didn’t want to bail out when I might have been able to save it. I made a good landing as far as it goes until I lost control of speed.

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Wednesday
Feb222017

Journey to Recovery

By Senior Airman Kyle Johnson, Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson Public Affairs

(This feature is part of the “Through Airmen’s Eyes” series. These stories focus on individual Airmen, highlighting their Air Force story).

Senior Master Sgt. Janet Lemmons, the 176th Force Support Squadron sustainment and services superintendent, holds up a note her son Tommy wrote to her and his stepfather, Tom, when he was younger. She found the note among a pile of old receipts when she was looking to trade in some diamond earrings after his death. Lemmons tells everyone the note is a thousand times better than diamonds and she keeps it at her desk. (U.S. Air Force photo/Senior Airman Kyle Johnson)Then-Tech. Sgt. Janet Lemmons realized she couldn’t breathe in the hospital room. It was as if there wasn’t enough space for her family’s grief and the air collectively. She had to get out.

Lemmons stepped into the elevator that would take her someplace where she could breathe, but the cold steel walls provided no comfort as they sealed her in. She took several deep breaths as the elevator descended. The doors opened on friends and family, and they all knew exactly what had happened as soon as they saw her.

Her oldest son, Tommy, was dead.

Lemmons stepped out into a surreal world where nothing was as it should be and didn’t feel like it ever would be.

“How am I going to laugh again?” said Lemmons, now a senior master sergeant and the sustainment services superintendent for the 176th Force Support Squadron. “What is life going to be like? How am I going to eat again? How is anything ever going to be enjoyable again?”

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Wednesday
Feb222017

The U.S. Navy’s First Carrier Squadron VFA-2 “Bounty Hunters”

By Mike Heilman and Ed Wells

An F/A-18F “Super Hornet” from VFA-2 “Bounty Hunters” taxis in after landing aboard the USS Carl Vinson (CVN-70) during the ship’s final Composite Unit Training Exercise or COMPTUEX off the coast of Southern California in Oct. of 2016. (Mike Heilman)U.S Navy’s VFA-2 Fighter Squadron is used to being at the tip of the spear, after all, they were the very first fighter squadron deployed on America’s first aircraft carrier, the USS Langley (CV-1). The squadron was established in 1922 and began flying the Vought VE-7SF Biplane. It would be 1925 before the USS Langley, also known as the “Covered Wagon,” would take seven pilots and 42 enlisted personnel from VF-2 out to sea for the very first time in maneuvers off the coast of California.

In 1927, the squadron was named the “Flying Chiefs” and was considered by many as the “Hottest outfit afloat.” The “Flying Chiefs” would not see combat until the start of World War II. In 1942, the squadron was deployed aboard the USS Lexington (CV-2) during the Battle of the Coral Sea. It would be the first ever battle between aircraft carriers. The unit would claim 11 kills, but the Lexington would be so crippled from torpedo damage that the Navy would have to scuttle the ship so it wouldn’t be captured by the Japanese. 

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Wednesday
Feb222017

Warbird Sanctuary

By David Brown

The Commemorative Air Force WWII Aviation Museum at Camarillo ( David Brown)Camarillo is an airfield steeped in aviation history and located 20 miles west of Los Angeles. F-89 Scorpion jets and F-101B Voodoo supersonic fighters were based here until the base was closed in 1969. Since then, it has been used for general aviation. I have flown into Camarillo on many occasions in a succession of singles and twin-engine Cessnas and Pipers. Some years ago, a Lockheed Constellation was restored at Camarillo. And then there are the Warbirds. These days, Camarillo is a Warbird Sanctuary.

Warbirds are notoriously difficult to operate. There are very few individuals who have the financial clout and technical ability to manage warbirds. But organizations with individuals of many talents can master this trick. The Southern California Wing of the Commemorative Air Force, and the American Aeronautical Foundation are both based at Camarillo.

A recent visit to Camarillo airport was like stepping back in time. The Commemorative Air Force Hangar contains the WWII Aviation Museum.

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